Six of the best get nod for World Cup squad

by Stephen Findlater

UCD’S Lena Tice, Deirdre Duke and Katie Mullan and Loreto’s Ali Meeke, Nicci Daly and Hannah Matthews have all been named in the Irish women’s squad for July’s World Cup along with former Monkstown players Chloe Watkins, Anna O’Flanagan and Nikki Evans.

Daly was one of the doubts before Tuesday’s announcement but she will return this week from a stress fracture in her foot, making sure she is part of Ireland’s first World Cup journey since 2002.

And coach Graham Shaw said she could have possibly played last weekend against Germany in a challenge match but they erred on the side of caution, waiting for the series against Japan in Cork to give it an extra few days to heal.

For the coach, though, a slight tweak in the World Cup squad rules means that there is a greater possibility to give players a chance of taking part.

Previously, squads were limited to just 18 players with no facility to bring in replacements. This time around, replacements can be brought in for injured players – assessed and certified by a doctor – during the competition.

“You take a risk with players coming back from injury; that’s natural. We feel they will get through the next few weeks. The format does give you that bit of a comfort blanket if players do have a recurrence that you can bring in players that have been part of the squad.”

Other than this duo, the squad is one of the most experienced ones ever fielded with only Roisin Upton holding under 50 international caps.

Shaw added that it was the toughest selection he has ever had to make, knowing the sacrifices the players have put in to get to this stage.

“These women give every everything for it, they dedicate their lives to it. They get up early for the gym, train late at night. They also have their lives to deal with. It’s incredibly difficult, something that we put a lot of thought into. We went through everything in depth and unfortunately, these players have missed out.

The squad will head to Cork for eight days, three games against Japan next Wednesday, Friday and Saturday before playing another couple of games in Dublin against Chile and Italy. Preparations finish with a practice game against South Africa in Lee Valley in London.

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