Leah ready to fight for 'special' spot in Ireland's World Cup squad after returning from five-year international break
Leah McGuire, formerly Ewart, is in the frame for a place in Ireland's World Cup squad after five years in the international wilderness.
The Ulster woman, who plays for UCD, received a late call-up to the squad that took part in last week's Tri-Nations tournament in Spain and played in three of Ireland's matches against Belgium and the host team.
The former Armagh defender got her big chance after Railway Union's Ellen Curran was forced to pull out of the panel due to injury and she enjoyed the experience although a lot has changed since she last played in 2012.
The 24-year-old was recalled to the training squad after impressing Ireland head coach Graham Shaw when playing for the Dublin students.
"I knew Graham had been watching our club games this season and was impressed with how I was playing and liked my style," she said.
"He had approached me about being involved with the squad again in the build-up to the World Cup and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games qualifications.
"It just happened that when Ellen got injured, an opportunity came to go away and he wanted to see me play at that level so I was invited to the Tri-Nations - I jumped at the chance.
"It had been a few years since I was in that environment so, despite knowing and playing with a lot of the girls previously at either club or under-age-level, a lot has changed regarding the game.
"For example, how they prepare for matches, the technology used around competing and analysing games and players.
"There were aspects of it that felt new and also I hadn't worked with a lot of the staff before, so that was a new experience."
McGuire says she would dearly love to play for Ireland at the World Cup but she realises that there will be stiff competition for places in the final 18.
"From chatting with Graham, he seems very open-minded regarding the squad for the World Cup and there is a lot of training from now until then," added the PhD student.
"It would obviously be very tough as there's a lot of talent and depth currently in the squad but if it all leads to playing in London that would be incredibly special."
Meanwhile, McGuire's attention this weekend will be concentrated on helping UCD consolidate their position at the top of the EY IHL table when they take on Ards in Dublin on Saturday.
Ulster's other two teams clash head-on as Pegasus, who are two points off the pace, take on Belfast Harlequins at Upper Malone.
In the Ulster Premier League, leaders Dungannon travel to a Banbridge side buoyed by last week's win over Ulster Elks, who host North Down on Friday.
Ballymoney have a tough one at home to Lurgan while Queen's are away to Randalstown.