Rising star Kerri gets big break with Ireland
Kerri McDonald will make her senior international debut later this month after being named in the Ireland squad for the EuroHockey Championship II tournament scheduled for Prague.
The Ards midfielder had been part of the extended training panel after impressing for her club and is one of six Ulster players to make the cut in a squad which shows seven changes from the one that failed to quaify for Rio 2016 through the World League 3 tournament last month.
McDonald was instrumental in helping Ards claim a Premier League-Ulster Shield double last season and before that was vice-captain of the Ireland Under 21 squad at the European Championhips in 2014.
All four local players from the fateful trip to Valencia remain while McDonald's club mate Chloe Brown, who narrowly missed out on the trip to Spain, will make her tournament debut having played a handful of friendly matches.
As expected Nikki Evans misses out as she hasn't recovered from a double fracture of the jaw sustained in the final match in Valencia meaning Naomi Carroll and Emily Beatty are recalled to the strike force.
Fomer Annadale coach Graham Shaw, who has taken over as national head coach from Darren Smith, feels the changes will not weaken the line-up as Ireland attempt to bounce back into the top flight of European hockey.
Ireland, ranked 14th in the world, have been drawn in Pool 'A' with the Czech Republic (35th), Ukraine (26th) and France (24th).
"The objective of this tournament is a top two finish to secure promotion back to the 'A' Division," says Dubliner Shaw.
"This is very important for this squad and the path we want to take and with seven changes from the squad that went to Valencia it shows the real strength in depth we have in Irish hockey with the calibre of players we have called in."
Ireland squad for EuroHockey Championship II (Prague July 18-26): Ayeisha McFarren, Stella Davis, Ali Meeke, Kerri McDonald, Hannah Mathews, Cliodhna Sargent, Shirley McCay, Megan Frazer (capt.), Yvonne O´Byrne, Gill Pinder, Nicci Daly, Chloe Watkins, Emily Beatty, Naomi Carroll, Chloe Brown, Deirdre Duke, Kate Lloyd, Katie Mullan.