HOCKEY Irish Women's Hockey Team for World Cup Qualifier Announced

Experienced internationals Linda Caulfield, Ciara O’Brien and Eimear Cregan bring important big tournament experience, all being veterans of Olympic Qualifying Tournament and World Cup action. Ace defender Bridget McKeever remains questionable after picking up a face injury recently against Argentina, so Nikki Keegan remains on reserve if McKeever is not fit in time for April’s tournament. Louisa Healy also remains on standby as Ireland’s third goalie, with Kristin Farrell missing out on the final eighteen.

“We had a good tournament in Argentina last week, which saw a marked improvement in our performances,” said national team coach Reit Kuper today. “The squad selection was very difficult. We have some talented young players coming into the squad who have not experienced major world-ranking international tournaments before. However, the squad has an excellent core of very experienced senior players who give the squad a good balance of youth and experience.”

Kuper continued, “We will continue our preparation with fixtures next week against England and Italy, which will ensure that we have played against all our pool opposition within the last twelve months, with the exception of New Zealand. So we will have a better idea of what to expect in Rome.”

The men’s team for the BDO Hockey World Cup Qualifier in Changzhou, China depart Dublin on Thursday April 6th bound for the eleven day tournament which gets underway on Wednesday April 12th. The team are currently ranked 22nd in the World but this ranking doesn’t reflect their true position when recent good performances against South Africa, France and Egypt are taken into account. The team are boosted by the return of Karl Burns after a lengthy lay off with a hamstring tear injury. The Cork Church of Ireland club man passed a final fitness test at the weekend, and under expert guidance from the medical team has worked daily on an intensive rehabilitation programme.

Twelve teams split into two pools of six compete in each tournament. At the end of the Qualifier the top five ranked teams will qualify for their respective World Cup later this year. In both tournaments the pools operate on a round robin basis, with the top two in each pool automatically qualifying for the World Cup. The third and fourth place teams in each pool play off for that final elusive qualifying spot, so, in order to be in contention for a qualifying spot Ireland must finish within the top four in their pool.

After the pool stage each team will have another two matches to decide their final tournament classification. World ranking points will be awarded at this tournament. The Men’s World Cup takes place from September 6th to 17th 2006 in Monchengladbach, Germany. The Women’s World Cup will be staged in Madrid, Spain from September 27th until October 8th 2006.

The ESB Irish women face a difficult challenge to qualify with two of the world’s best teams; Korea and New Zealand in their pool. The New Zealand team narrowly lost out on bronze at the recent Commonwealth Games, losing on penalties to England. Ireland’s opening match against USA is a crunch game, with both teams evenly matched and USA ranked one place above Ireland in the latest world rankings. The pair met twice at a four nations tournament in Argentina earlier this month. USA won the first encounter 2-1 but the Irish ladies prevailed second time around beating the USA 3-1. Ireland’s remaining competitors in Pool B are Italy and Azerbaijan, both of whom Ireland will be hoping to overcome.

In the other pool China, and Commonwealth bronze medallists England will be competing with the Japanese for the automatic qualifying spots. Scotland, Ukraine and France are likely to be the ones fighting it out for fourth in the pool.

ESB as National Sponsor of Women’s Hockey in Ireland and the Women’s International Team wishes the squad every success in their final preparations for the World Cup Qualifiers in Rome in April.

In their pool the Irish men’s team have Commonwealth silver medallists Pakistan and a very powerful English side, who finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games to contend with. They also face a very good tournament side in Belgium. Canada and an Egyptian team that Ireland has beaten in their last three meetings are the remaining sides in their pool. In pool B China, Japan and Korea are expected to contest the top placings but will be challenged all the way by a Malaysian side that won bronze at the Commonwealths and a very strong New Zealand side, as well as the French.

The Irish Sports Council will be assisting the Irish Hockey Association with their media liaison for both campaigns. Sinéad McElroy of the Council will act as press officer to both teams, based in Dublin for the men’s tournament and in Rome with the women’s team for the duration of their qualifier. Schedules and Irish player profiles will be available shortly on www.hockey.ie and www.irishsportscouncil.ie
Ends.
Issued on behalf of the Irish Hockey Association by the Irish Sports Council
For Further Information:
Paul Varian, Chief Executive, Irish Hockey, 086-1736728 paul.varian@hockey.ie
Sinéad McElroy, Irish Sports Council, 01-8608804 smcelroy@irishsportscouncil.ie