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Ireland can handle Kuala Lumpur heat of World battle, says star Zoe

By John Flack

Having adjusted to the sweltering conditions in Kuala Lumpur, the Ireland women's squad will be hoping to turn up the heat on the opposition after they finalise their preparations for the World League 2 tournament which gets under way on Saturday.

It's the first stage of qualifying for next year's World Cup and Ireland have high hopes of not only progressing but doing so by winning the tournament.

Graham Shaw's girls go into the event ranked second out of the eight competing teams, with only Italy at 15 occupying a higher place on the world ladder.

Ireland, 16th in the world, can afford to finish third overall and still earn a place in the next stage of the qualifying process but they want to do better than that.

They begin their campaign on Saturday against Kazakhstan, who are ranked 33 in the world, and then play Malaysia (21) and Hong Kong (37) as they aim to top their group before going into the knockout stages.

Italy, Thailand (31), Wales (32) and Singapore (43) make up the other group and if Ireland can top theirs, then they will face the team that finishes fourth in the other pool in the quarter-final stage.

The squad, including five Ulster girls, arrived in the balmy heat of the Malaysian capital last week and have had plenty of time to acclimatise as they count down to he action.

Randalstown's Zoe Wilson explained: "Our hotel is in the middle of the city, so when we step out the door we are into the hot and humid weather with temperatures of around 36 degrees when we are training.

"When we trained the first day, the heat and humidity was overwhelming as it's something most of us haven't experienced.

"However, since then we have had more sessions and have been surprised at how quickly we have adapted, although the real test will be playing competitive games on consecutive days."

Wilson, however, expects the host nation to prove the most difficult opposition in the group as they are obviously used to the climate.

Back home, there is one re-arranged IHL game on Saturday as Belfast Harlequins host Pegasus at Deramore after the original fixture fell victim to frost towards the end of last year.

Quins hope to have defender Claire Kilpatrick and striker Claire Weir back from injury.

In the Ulster Premier League, leaders Lurgan should make it nine wins in a row when they go to North Down while two of their main challengers, Ballymoney and Queen's, meet at the Joey Dunlop Centre.


SATURDAY: World League 2 (Kuala Lumpur): Pool B: Ireland v Kazakhstan (10.15am UK time)

EY Irish Hockey League: Belfast Harlequins v Pegasus (Deramore, 2.30pm)

Premier League:  Lisnagarvey v Portadown (Comber Road, 2.30pm); Dungannon v Banbridge (Royal School, 2.30pm); Ballymoney v Queen’s (Joey Dunlop Centre, 2.30pm); North Down v Lurgan (Comber, 2.30pm); Randalstown v Raphoe (Antrim Forum, 2.30pm)

Senior One: Ballyclare v CI Ladies (2.30pm); Knock v Mossley (1pm); Larne v Armagh (2.30pm); Rainey v Cookstown (4pm); Victorians v Ballymena (4pm).

Belfast Telegraph


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