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The Ireland women's hockey squad and backroom team arrived in Murcia yesterday for a five-match series against Spain, having all tested negative for Covid-19 before flying out from Dublin

The Ireland women's hockey squad and backroom team arrived in Murcia yesterday for a five-match series against Spain, having all tested negative for Covid-19 before flying out from Dublin

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

The Ireland women's hockey squad and backroom team arrived in Murcia yesterday for a five-match series against Spain, having all tested negative for Covid-19 before flying out from Dublin

The Ireland women's hockey squad and backroom team arrived in Murcia yesterday for a five-match series against Spain, having all tested negative for Covid-19 before flying out from Dublin.

The 23 players in the Olympic training panel and staff will be adhering to strict protocols on the trip due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ireland manager Lisa Jacob, who recently took over the post from Ulster woman Arlene Boyles, has been busy making sure everything runs smoothly.

She said: "We have really comprehensive and robust Covid protocols to ensure we are as safe as we can be at all times.

"Each part of our trip is mapped out to consider all the moving parts and adapt to the dynamic nature of the virus situation in the Republic, Northern Ireland and Spain."

The Irish party will be in a bubble in Murcia and their internal travel will be confined to hotel and hockey pitch.

Normally on such trips, the players and staff sample the local cuisine in restaurants but that won't be possible on this occasion.

Instead, they will not be permitted to stray outside their immediate surroundings with an exclusive dining area and team meeting room in their hotel.

As for the hockey, the five-match series should be ideal preparation for Tokyo as Spain are ranked seventh in the world - one place higher than Ireland.

Although the teams have been kept separate in their respective pools at the Olympics, they will meet in the group stages of the European Championship in Amsterdam in June.

That tournament doubles as a World Cup 2022 qualifier with the top six finishers out of eight progressing to the showpiece, jointly hosted by Spain and the Netherlands.

Eight Ulster players are in the Olympic training panel and on the current trip to Murcia, including Randalstown's Zoe Wilson, who says the games will be a useful exercise.

"We are really looking forward to getting back to playing international games," she said.

"We always have great competitive games against Spain and they are just off the back of three matches with Belgium so it will be a good test for us.

"I think the camp will be a great opportunity to put into practice some of the things we've been working on  in the past few months and also spend quality time together on the training field."

Tomorrow: Spain v Ireland (10am).

Belfast Telegraph


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