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Benson hopes African trip can inspire Ireland's Euro promotion

 

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Busy schedule: Amy Benson

Busy schedule: Amy Benson

�INPHO/Tommy Grealy

Busy schedule: Amy Benson

Ireland's women will be aiming to go one better than their male counterparts when they contest the European Indoor Championship in Slovakia over the next three days.

The men finished a very creditable third in Santander last weekend but it wasn't enough to secure promotion into the second-tier Euros.

However, the women are quietly confident they can get the top-two finish they need in Bratislava to go up.

Ireland start their campaign today when they face Portugal (10am) and Spain (4pm) before meeting Slovakia, Denmark, Finland and Slovenia in a hectic programme, involving six matches in three days.

Ards striker Amy Benson, one of three Ulster women in the squad, believes that a recent trip to South Africa, involving six internationals, will stand the newly-formed Ireland team in good stead.

She said: "It allowed us to really gel as a team and being able to train and play so many matches over the course of the 10-day tour has been so beneficial to our growth and developing as a team.

"We have been training as a group on Wednesday evenings and Sundays for the past few weeks since returning from South Africa and we improved each week.

"This weekend, we expect Spain in particular to provide really tough opposition.

"But promotion is certainly something we are aiming for and believe we can achieve it and, if we do, it would be great for the further development of indoor hockey in Ireland."

In a busy weekend of action, the Ireland outdoor women's team face Germany and South Africa in Stellenbosch tomorrow (2pm) and Sunday (4pm) respectively as they continue their Olympic preparations.

Ireland opened with a 1-0 win in the first game with South Africa and then defeated the Netherlands U21 side 3-1 on Tuesday.

Belfast Telegraph