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Only SIX of Ulster’s best get call

Northern numbers down as Ireland prepare for crucial olympics bid

By John Flack

Just six Ulster players have been included in the Electric Ireland national women's hockey squad for the latest Centralisation Preparation Programme ahead of next year's Olympic qualifier.

It is a disappointing return for the northern province in the Irish squad who must win the tournament to qualify for London 2012.

Ireland failed in their first attempt to book their tickets to the showpiece after finishing fifth in the recent EuroHockey Nations Cup in Germany.

The players concerned are Hannah Bowe, Emma Clarke, Lizzie Colvin, Shirley McCay, Michelle Harvey and Alex Speers.

The squad had enjoyed some down time after the Europeans and have resumed playing with their clubs but as of last Sunday the main focus will be on the Olympic qualifiers which will take place early next year.

“After a well earned rest it is good to see the girls back into their full training programme which now includes a club session each week.” High Performance Director Dave Passmore commented.

“The real developmental impact of the CPP program should be realised through the next period of the programme and with the Argentina trip in December being a timely opportunity to view the development made as the girls move into the final push towards the Olympic qualifier.”

“The squad which sees some minor changes is made up of 26 players, 23 full CPP players and three probationary players, Deirdre Duke, Leah Ewart and Gillian Pinder and they will be given a chance to make their impression on the coaching team before national coach Gene Muller looks to narrow his squad come December.”

Two changes in the full squad sees goalkeeper Louisa Healy, who stepped off the scene in the summer of 2009 to focus on her career, back in the fray alongside fellow keepers Emma Gray and Pamela Smithwick while Julia O’Halloran has withdrawn from the programme.

The programme which is intense but designed to prepare the squad as best as possible sees them train together for two full days a week (Sunday & Monday) and participate in two strength and conditioning sessions, before hitting the pitch again on Wednesday evenings.

Players are also available to train with their clubs on Thursday evenings and available to play for their clubs in the major national competitions like the Irish Senior Cup, Irish Hockey League and stipulated provincial league matches.

Ireland's next opportunity to test themselves in a competitive tournament setting will occur in Argentina this December where they will compete in two Four Nations competitions from December 7 through to December 18.

Irish squad

Niamh Atcheler (UCD), Hannah Bowe (Slough), Emma Clarke (Leicester), Aine Connery (Hermes), Lizzie Colvin (Loreto), Miriam Crowley (Hermes), Nicci Daly (Loreto), Nicola Evans (Railway Union), Emma Gray (Hermes), Louisa Healy (Loreto), Michelle Harvey (Pegasus), Lisa Jacob (Hermes), Sinead McCarthy (Hermes), Shirley McCay (Old Alex), Anna O' Flanagan (UCD). Audrey O'Flynn (Hermes), Cliodhna Sargent (Cork Harlequins), Niamh Small (Loreto). Emma Smyth (Railway Union), Alex Speers (Railway Union), Nikki Symmons (Loreto), Pam Smithwick (Old Alex), Chloe Watkins (UCD)

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