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Shirley McCay is homing in on 300 caps for Ireland

 

New milestone: Ireland’s most capped player Shirley McCay
New milestone: Ireland’s most capped player Shirley McCay

By John Flack

Shirley McCay will move to within one cap of a magical 300 next week when Ireland take on Belgium and Korea in two warm-up games in Dublin on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the Olympic qualifiers against Canada at the start of next month.

Already the country's most-capped player, the Pegasus defender will then set a new and memorable milestone when she plays against Germany in the first of two games in Mannheim the following week as Ireland round off their preparations for the Canada games in Dublin on November 3-4. The Belgium and Korea matches are being staged as a three-nations event at the new national centre at Abbotstown.

Having played China in a double-header last month, Katie Mullan's team will have had six official international matches before facing the North Americans at the Donnybrook rugby stadium which will be converted into a hockey venue for the showpiece.

Ireland captain Mullan, one of seven Ulster players in the current extended squad, is delighted at the opportunity to host the two nations, who are also fine tuning their build-up to the Tokyo qualifiers.

Both teams are familiar to Ireland who lost 3-1 to Korea in the penultimate stage of Olympic qualifying in June and went on to beat Belgium 2-1 at the European Championship in Antwerp in August.

"We had a good battle against Belgium at the Euros and we also played them in a couple of friendlies just before the tournament, drawing the second game 2-2 after losing the first 4-2," said the Coleraine woman.

"They are a very skilful team and we will need to be up to speed against them, so we are really looking forward to that game.

"Korea caused us a few problems in the FIH World Series final in Banbridge, so it's another great game for us and they will ask a few questions of us so we'll have to respond to those and I'm really happy with the teams we're playing."

FIXTURES: Saturday: Irish Senior Cup : quarter finals: Pegasus v UCC; Corinthian v Banbridge; Pembroke v UCD; Loreto v Railway Union. Ulster Premier (2.30pm): Ballymoney v Raphoe; Lisnagarvey v Mossley. Senior One (2.30pm): Armagh v Omagh; Coleraine v Ballymena; North Down v Club KV; Portadown v Priorians.

Sunday: EYHL 2: Pool A: Corinthians v Cork Church of Ireland; Lurgan v NUIG. Pool B: Ards v Queen's (1pm); Greenfields v UCC.

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