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Ireland good enough to win medal at Euros, insists Katie


By John Flack

The Ireland women's hockey team have set the bar high as they prepare for the EuroHockey Championship, which begins with a clash against England in Amsterdam today.

Team captain Katie Mullan insists Ireland can get among the medals, whereas the world rankings would tend to suggest that a more modest target - avoiding relegation from the top flight - would be more realistic.

It was a case of so near, yet so far against England at the recent World Cup qualifier when Mullan was on target in a 3-2 loss.

Ireland also play Germany in the group stages and they were just seven seconds away from beating the Rio Olympic bronze medalists in the same competition in Johannesburg, only to draw 2-2.

To be in with a chance of achieving their medal target by reaching the semi-finals Ireland would, at least, need to beat either England or Germany and Scotland, whom they face tomorrow.

Mullan, one of only three Ulster players in the squad, says confidence in the group is high, especially after finishing above their ranking in South Africa to move to the brink of a World Cup place.

The Coleraine ace said: "We know how England play and what to expect tactically.

"If you give them soft opportunities, they will take them," she warned.

"So it's important for us to stay switched on for 60 minutes against them as they have some skilful forwards.

"We will look to start our European tournament with the confidence and belief we had against them in the second half in Johannesburg.

"The last two times we have played Germany they have been close encounters.

"We are looking forward to having another go at them," she added.

"We must ensure our basic skills are as good as, if not better than theirs on the day.

"Scotland pose a different challenge for us in the Europeans and we must bring a high tempo to the game and must be prepared for them to come out of the blocks against us."

Today: Ireland v England (1.45pm UK time); Tomorrow: Ireland v Scotland (12.15pm)

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