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Extra training camps for Irish squad before Olympics debut

 

Training mode: Ayeisha McFerran is off to South Africa
Training mode: Ayeisha McFerran is off to South Africa

By John Flack

The Ireland women's hockey squad have pencilled in two additional trips as part of their preparation for the Tokyo Olympics with training camps in Spain and Belgium added to their itinerary.

First up is a visit to South Africa this month for a fortnight's warm weather training with internationals against the host nation and Germany, both of whom are are in Ireland's pool in Japan.

Ireland will then head to Malaysia in March when the conditions will mirror the heat and humidity of Tokyo in the summer, followed by trips to Belgium and Spain, which have been provisionally arranged for May and June respectively.

Head coach Sean Dancer has named a 20-strong squad for the first part of the build-up in South Africa, from January 16-30.

Six Ulster players are included with captain Katie Mullan joined by the Barr twins Serena and Bethany, Shirley McCay, Lizzie Colvin and Ayeisha McFerran.

Goalkeeper McFerran was among the heroines of the penalty shootout win over Canada in Donnybrook in November which sealed Ireland a place in the Olympics for the first time.

The double-header qualifier finished 0-0 meaning a penalty decider was needed to determine the outcome.

Dancer admits that Ireland have plenty of work to do in attack before they head to Tokyo, after failing to get a shot on target in the second game in Dublin.

Dancer said: "I thought we defended well against a Canada side that had been scoring a lot of goals in the build up, including one against world champions the Netherlands."

"But there is still scope for improvement in attack and we will be working hard on that aspect of our game in the months leading up to the Olympics."

Tomorrow: Ulster Premier: (2.30pm); Ards v Rainey; Banbridge v Ballymoney; Lisnagarvey v Lurgan.

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