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Familiar foes to stand in Ireland's way in difficult Olympic group

Counting down: Sean Dancer’s side will be in Pool 1
Counting down: Sean Dancer’s side will be in Pool 1

By John Flack

Ireland's women will be up against mostly familiar opposition at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo after the line-ups for the two pools were provisionally confirmed.

With groupings based on world rankings rather than an open draw, Sean Dancer's team will take on the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, India and either South Africa or hosts Japan next summer.

South Africa's participation has still to be ratified by that country's Olympic committee, who have decided against entering the national team after they failed to meet pre-defined performance criteria during the qualifying process.

If the decision stands, then Ireland will face Japan instead, with Korea playing in the other pool as the first reserve if South Africa withdraw.

Ireland lost to the Netherlands in last year's World Cup final and the World No.1 nation will be expected to top the group.

GB, who won the gold medals in Rio, haven't been setting the world alight recently and Ireland ran England close at the recent European Championship, losing 2-1.

Germany were held to a 1-1 draw by Ireland at the same tournament, while the Irish beat India twice at last year's World Cup in London.

Dancer's team must finish in the top four to progress to the knock-out stages after beating Canada on penalties to qualify.

Meanwhile, it's been revealed that Roisin Upton, who scored the winning one-on-one in Sunday's shoot-out victory, played through the pain barrier after fracturing her wrist in the game itself.

The Limerick woman (25) explained: "There was just a point in the match where I felt I couldn't grip my stick properly and an x-ray the following day confirmed a fracture."

Olympic Games Women's Hockey Pool 1: Netherlands, Germany, GB, Ireland, India, South Africa or Japan; Pool 2: Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Spain, China, Japan or Korea.

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