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McCay: Tokyo schedule can benefit Irish


All good: Shirley McCay is delighted with how Ireland’s Olympic fixtures have fallen
All good: Shirley McCay is delighted with how Ireland’s Olympic fixtures have fallen

By John Flack

Ireland's women will face South Africa in their first ever fixture at an Olympic Games next July after the schedule for Tokyo 2020 was announced in Japan yesterday.

The Irish will go on to face the Netherlands, Germany, India and reigning champions Great Britain, who claimed gold after beating the Dutch in the Rio 2016 final.

All the matches will be played in slots which avoid the hottest times of the day but Ireland are leaving no stone unturned in the build-up.

The Irish squad will be based in Iwate, 325 miles north of Tokyo, for a two-week holding camp which they will use as a training base and to acclimatise to the conditions before moving to the Olympic village.

Ireland's most-capped player Shirley McCay, the Pegasus defender, has welcomed the match schedule and the fact South Africa are first on the agenda.

They are ranked 16th in the world - which is eight places lower than Ireland - but South Africa won the last meeting between the teams 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Johannesburg in July 2017.

By coincidence, Ireland, who were silver medallists at last year's World Cup in London, will have a sneak preview of what they can expect as they will be playing South Africa during a warm-weather training camp next month.

"Playing South Africa is going to be a massive game for us and it's good to get it first I think," said McCay, who won her 301st cap in the dramatic Olympic qualifying win over Canada in Dublin last month.

"We'll be well ready for that and we'll be targeting it as a game we want to win.

"Holland will obviously be tough, as will Germany, and obviously there are no easy games at an Olympics.

"But as for Germany, we usually give them a good tight game and we are maybe seen as a bit of a bogey team to them.

"Similar to the Germans, we usually give Great Britain a good game and we could well need something from that match if we are to finish in the top four in the pool and qualify for the quarter-finals, which is our first objective."

Olympic Games: Pool A: Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, India, South Africa

Pool B: Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Spain, China, Japan

Ireland schedule: July 25: Ireland v South Africa (9.15pm Japan time, 12.15pm UK). July 27: Ireland v Netherlands (1am, 10am). July 29: Ireland v Germany (12.15pm, 3am). July 31: Ireland v India (11.45am, 2.45am). August 1: Ireland v Great Britain (8.45pm, 11.45am)

Denman Ulster Shield semi-finals (The Dub): Tonight: Lurgan v Pegasus (7.30pm)

Saturday: Banbridge v Belfast Harlequins (2.30pm)

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