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McFerran is loving life as she eyes 100th Irish cap



Landmark appearance: Ulster ace Ayeisha McFerran (right) with Ireland team-mate Elena Tice

Landmark appearance: Ulster ace Ayeisha McFerran (right) with Ireland team-mate Elena Tice

�INPHO/Joe Toth

Landmark appearance: Ulster ace Ayeisha McFerran (right) with Ireland team-mate Elena Tice

Ayeisha McFerran will become the latest Ulster player to join the century club this week when Ireland round off their warm-weather training camp in South Africa.

The Larne woman, voted Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2018 World Cup in London, is set to make her 100th appearance for her country against either South Africa this evening or Germany tomorrow.

It was McFerran's heroics in the Olympic qualifying double-header against Canada in Dublin last November that were instrumental in booking Ireland their tickets to Tokyo in the summer.

The 24-year-old saved two penalty run-ins in the shoot-out as Ireland came from 3-1 down in the decider after the double-header had ended without a goal being scored.

Widely regarded as a specialist in the ice hockey-style one-on-ones in which players have eight seconds to beat the keeper, McFerran also helped Ireland into a first ever World Cup final in London, saving three penalties in the quarter-final win over India and four in the semi-final against Spain.

Ireland went on to lose 6-0 to the Netherlands in the decider, but little did McFerran know at the time she would go on to play with and against some of the top Dutch internationals a year or so later.

After having to turn down several offers to play abroad after the World Cup to finish her studies in the United States, she joined KV Kampong of the Netherlands last August.

She says the experience of playing in what is regarded as the top league in world hockey has helped her game reach new heights.

McFerran said: "Kampong is going very well, the staff and my team-mates have been very supportive and welcoming since I moved over and started to try to find my way in the Dutch league.

"I definitely think the move has helped me improve my game as the increase of speed and skill and different tactics have challenged me to adapt to the game there.

"It took some time to get myself into a rhythm during the first half of the season as I was flying back to Ireland each week for training in the lead up to the Olympic qualifiers.

"But I'm looking forward to getting back to Holland after the South Africa trip and getting into the groove there again, and hopefully I'll be able to continue to develop my game to help both Ireland and Kampong."

Ireland have already won the three-match series with South Africa in Stellenbosch ahead of today's game (5pm) following a 1-0 success a week ago and a 5-1 victory on Sunday.

McFerran's side lost 4-0 to Germany in Saturday's opener as they prepare for tomorrow's rematch (5pm) against another of the sides that they will meet in Tokyo.

Belfast Telegraph