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Ireland girls are set for Chile after Spanish tests


Big support: Megan Frazer is hoping for huge home crowds

Big support: Megan Frazer is hoping for huge home crowds

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Big support: Megan Frazer is hoping for huge home crowds

Ireland's women will play their first internationals since their World Cup odyssey next month in Spain, followed by a trip to Chile, as part of the build-up to next year's first stage of the Olympic qualifying process.

Three games have been scheduled against their hosts in Valencia in what will be part of a warm-weather training camp.

Ironically, it was a memorable penalty shoot-out win over Spain that booked Ireland their place in the World Cup final in the summer.

Graham Shaw's team, of course, went on to take the silver medal in London after becoming the first Irish team ever to reach a World final in any sport.

After the Spanish trip, Ireland will be heading to Chile early in the New Year to continue their build-up to the World Series finals, which is effectively an Olympic qualifier.

There, Ireland will play their hosts, who have soared more than 10 places in the rankings to 16th in the past few years.

Ireland host their qualifier as top seeds after their World Cup heroics catapulted them to eighth on the global list.

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Korea, Scotland, Czech Republic, Malaysia, France and Ukraine, along with one other nation still to be decided, will provide the opposition with the top two finishers to progress.

Megan Frazer, one of six Ulster women in the World Cup squad, is confident that Ireland can make it into the final stage of qualifying, which will be a two-legged home tie next year.

Frazer said: "It will be great to have the home crowd behind us and I am sure people will turn out in huge numbers, just like they did at the World Cup."

Frazer is almost fully fit again after a hamstring injury ruled her out of the World Cup final.Before that, she suffered a knee injury in a training accident with German club Mannheimer which required surgery two years ago.

Frazer said: "I managed to play 10 out of 14 games with Mannheimer before the indoor break in Germany and I scored two goals from centre-back, so that was pleasing."

Frazer is currently playing for Ulster Elks, with whom she won two Irish Senior Cup medals before moving to Germany two seasons ago, and will return to the European mainland in March.

Meanwhile, Ards are aiming to secure their first EY Irish Hockey League victory in six starts this evening when they face Belfast Harlequins at Deramore.

They are currently one place off the bottom after five matches, but co-captain Naomi McKnight saw positive signs in Sunday's narrow 2-1 loss to Old Alex.

On Saturday, Pegasus, who trail leaders Loreto on goal difference after losing 2-0 to the Dubliners on Sunday, will be hoping to bounce back when they travel to Cork Harlequins.

There are full Ulster Premier League and Senior One programmes this weekend, as well as an Ulster Senior Cup and a Denman Ulster Shield pool game.

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