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Cancelling Irish under-age matches the right call, admits Passmore

 

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Head coach Dave Passmore

Head coach Dave Passmore

�INPHO/James Crombie

Head coach Dave Passmore

This season's entire Ireland women's Under-21 and U23 development programme has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Head coach Dave Passmore had arranged a busy schedule that was to have involved 19 matches, with three games against England scheduled for Easter the first casualties of the virus.

A busy June lay ahead with a warm-weather camp in North Carolina which would have involved six matches against the USA to have been followed by a home Six Nations tournament with Canada, Chile, Germany, India and Netherlands in Dublin.

The European Hockey Federation have now also confirmed the cancellation of their U23 Six Nations event which would have seen Ireland travel to Cardiff in mid-August.

Passmore said: "While completely understandable given the current priorities, we had put a lot of work into developing a programme for the year that would prepare a group to move into the senior squad post-Tokyo.

"The health of everyone is, and should be, our priority right now and these measures are appropriate."

Five Ulster players had been named in the U21 and U23 panels, including senior international Jessica McMaster, the Queen's University striker.

Her club mate Tori Hastings along with Jane Kilpatrick and Nadia Benallal, who play their hockey in England with Loughborough and Beeston respectively, and Ards forward Zara Malseed were also in the squad.

It is hoped that a similar programme will now take place next year with a trip to the USA already pencilled in, while the two Six Nations events are also in the process of being rescheduled.

There is also a possibility that some fixtures could be arranged for later this year, assuming sport will be up and running again by then.

Ireland coach Passmore added: "We will give the athletes a short break once the lockdown is over and then hope to start preparing for some matches in the late autumn once we have the domestic calendar confirmed.

"The management team and I have been exceptionally impressed with the attitude of the athletes during the past six weeks."

Belfast Telegraph