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World Cup will be my swansong in an Irish shirt, reveals McCay

 

By John Flack

Shirley McCay has revealed that she will quit international hockey following next year's World Cup in London after Ireland sealed their place at the showpiece yesterday.

The Pegasus defender, who is Ireland's most capped sportswoman, made her 250th appearance at the European Championships in Amsterdam in August.

Ireland were first reserve following their seventh placed finish at the World League 3 event in Johannesburg in July and were relying on the results of the various continental Championships going their way.

In the latest event, Australia and New Zealand have booked their place in the Oceanic Cup final in Sydney following big wins over Papua New Guinea.

Because both nations had pre-qualified for the World Cup, Ireland have moved up the list and have now reached the finals for the first time since 2002.

McCay said: "I will be 30 by the time the World Cup comes along and I think it's a good time to hang up my stick.

"I really hope to work hard to be in the best shape I can be going into the summer and play in what is essentially a home World Cup for us.

"I can't wait to get stuck into it as big tournaments like this don't come around too often for Ireland, and we don't want to be going along just to make up the numbers."

Two other Ulster players - who won't be retiring after the competition scheduled for next summer - are Belfast Harlequins defender Zoe Wilson and ex-Pegasus goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, who is now based in the United States.

McFerran (21) said: "Competing in a World Cup will be a fantastic experience, it is something that not just myself but a lot of girls within this squad have been dreaming of and working very hard to achieve.

"It's an opportunity to compete against the world's best, and for me it's a great moment to look forward to in my career.

"We all know that we are able to compete with the top teams, now this gives us the opportunity to go out and do it on a world stage once again.

"I feel over the past few years there may have been a negative vibe when people thought of the Irish women's hockey team but we have gone out and proved time and time again that we are the real deal despite having very little support and funding."

Wilson, at 20, is one of the youngest members of the current squad and she, too, is looking forward to playing in the second biggest hockey tournament on the global stage.

She said: "In terms of hockey competitions that a player aspires to, competing in the World Cup is at the top of the list alongside the Olympic Games.

"The prospect of playing on the world stage against the best teams is so exciting and, for me personally, a challenge I hope to rise to. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to experience this so early in my hockey career and I certainly hope it won't be a one-off."

Meanwhile, Belfast Harlequins' games with Loreto in the women's EY HL and Queen's in the Irish Senior Cup this weekend have been postponed, as has the men's Cup game between Instonians and Cookstown.

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