Ireland's chances of reaching the 2018 World Cup finals have been dealt a massive blow with confirmation that team captain Megan Frazer could miss the entire qualifying process through injury.
The former Ulster Elks midfielder has suffered serious knee ligament damage in a training accident with her German club Mannheimer HC, and will be out of action for up to nine months.
The 26-year-old is to undergo surgery on the injury and will definitely miss the first stage of the World Cup qualifying process, scheduled for Kuala Lumpur in January.
She will then face a race against the clock to recover in time for the final eliminator, which will take place in either Belgium or South Africa in late June and early July 2017.
Ireland should be capable of progressing from the Malaysian tournament, in which they will be up against lower-ranked opposition and require only a top-three finish.
However, the next stage of the process will be much more taxing as Ireland will need to beat higher-ranked nations if they are to qualify so, if she fails to make it, Frazer's absence would be a huge blow.
Not surprisingly, the Londonderry woman is distraught at her predicament after sustaining the injury that all sportsmen and women dread in seemingly innocuous circumstances.
She said: "I have completely ruptured my anterior cruciate and partially torn my medial cruciate ligament and I am having surgery on November 3 and it will take six to nine months of recovery from then.
"I am completely devastated that I am missing the tournament in Malaysia and also unable to finish my first season with Mannheimer.
"I was running fast with the ball unopposed in training and went to pass it off my right foot but it just gave way and I fell and it was extremely painful."
At least Frazer will be in good hands when she undergoes surgery in Germany next week, such are the high calibre medical facilities available at her club.
Mannheimer's Director of Sport Peter Leemen explained: "She will be operated on by a specialist, who has already performed this type of surgery on other players in the team.
"The cartilage in the knee is in order which is important for a good healing process but it is such a pity as Megan was settling in so well."
Frazer was able to travel with the Ireland squad for two international defeats in Belgium earlier this week and found the experience at least went some way towards cushioning the blow.
She added: "It was great to be around the team again and it really lifted my mood. Luckily I don't have too much pain and have started to work on my pre-surgery exercises."