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Zara Malseed out to impress as Ireland prepare to get back in action after year out

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Zara Malseed

Zara Malseed

Zara Malseed

The long wait will soon be over for Ireland's women as they head for Murcia later this week for five internationals against Spain.

It's been 12 months since Sean Dancer's team last played a competitive match due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last January, Ireland played a total of five internationals against Germany and South Africa in Stellenbosch.

Since then, it's been a tale of constant frustration with a return visit to the southern hemisphere for two warm-weather training camps in South Africa and Malaysia also being cancelled.

Unlike players from many of their rivals, Ireland's elite stars have been unable to play any club hockey since October.

Instead, the internationals have had to be content with playing each other in a series of intra-squad matches which is no substitute for the real thing.

However, the hiatus will soon be over with the first of the five games against Spain scheduled for next Sunday.

Further matches will take place on Tuesday, January 12, the following day and Friday and Sunday week.

The 23-strong Irish squad will be using the trip to prepare for the delayed Olympics which get under way in July.

Spain are ranked seventh in the world - one place above Ireland - and are also fine-tuning their build-up for Tokyo.

A few weeks before that, Ireland will face Spain at the European Championship in Amsterdam in June which will double as a qualifier for the 2022 World Cup.

The teams are extremely familiar with each other both in a tournament setting and otherwise, as Ireland have travelled to Spain on a regular basis over the past few years for winter training before the virus struck.

On the big stage, Ireland defeated the Spanish in a penalty shoot-out en route to reaching the World Cup Final in London in 2018.

Among those hoping to impress Dancer will be previously uncapped Ards striker Zara Malseed, one of eight Ulster women in the squad. The 23-year-old was cursing her luck last spring when she was expected to make her debut in a series with China in Belfast which fell victim to coronavirus.

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