Belfast Telegraph

Ireland have nothing to fear in tough World Cup group, says Zoe

 

By John Flack

The Ireland women's hockey team, as expected, have landed a tough draw for next July's World Cup in London and they will have their work cut out if they are to progress to the knock-out stages.

They will be up against England, who are second in the current world rankings, the United States (7th) and India (10th) in Pool B, with only the top team guaranteed to reach the quarter-finals.

Ireland's aim will be to avoid last place in the first phase and an early flight home, with the teams that finish second and third in the various groups then playing cross-over matches to determine the remaining four berths in the last eight.

Graham Shaw's team, at 16th, are the lowest-ranked nation in the tournament, and they will be targeting a win over India to keep their hopes of a last-four berth alive.

However, Ireland have beaten both the Asians and USA in the relatively recent past and, indeed, it was a 2-1 success over India in the World League 3 tournament in July that ultimately proved crucial in booking a place in the World Cup for the first time since 2002.

Shaw's assistant Arlene Boyles, who played in the 2002 World Cup in Australia, was not unhappy at the draw.

The Ulster woman said: "We always knew it was going to be tough because of our ranking but it's exciting at the same time to be playing on such a big stage."

"Obviously, people will single out India as the target game but I believe every team in the group will go into it thinking they can beat the others."

Ulster Elks' Megan Frazer, who hopes to be fit for the showpiece after more than a year out due to a cruciate injury, has welcomed the draw and particularly the chance to play England on their own patch.

She said: "Playing the host country in front of a sell-out crowd is a really exciting prospect which will present its own challenges not least the fact it will be difficult to hear ourselves on the pitch with all the noise."

"We are familiar with England as we have played them regularly in build-up games in the past and the girls gave them a really tough match at the qualifying tournament when we lost 3-2.

"We have also had numerous games against the Americans and we are familiar with the way they play."

Belfast Harlequins' Zoe Wilson is looking forward to the trip to London with a degree of confidence.

She added: "Having seen the draw, it has made everyone very excited knowing that, with the right preparation, we can compete with these teams."

"In the past 12 months we have beaten India at a major tournament and drawn with the USA in a friendly, so there is everything to play for.

"Due to the fact that only three in each pool go to the cross-over games, it is important to start positively against the Americans before playing India and England."

World Cup draw: Pool A: Netherlands, China, Korea, Italy; Pool B: England, USA, India, IRELAND; Pool C: Argentina, Germany, Spain, South Africa; Pool D: Australia, New Zeland, Japan, Belgium.

Saturday's results: Irish Cup: Queen's 1 (J Kee) Belfast H'quins 3 (Z Wilson 2, L Johnston); UCD 3 Ards 1 (C Brown); Cork H'quins 4 Ballymoney 0; Muckross 1 Railway 3; Ulster Premier: Rainey 0 Portadown 1 (S Livingstone); Senior One: CI 2 ( T Greer, L Ternahan)) Omagh 2 (N Nethery, D Darragh); Victorians 3 (K Porter, D Curry, R Hewitt) Raphoe 3 (A Kilpatrick, S Barnett, E Harpur).

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