Katie Mullan says how each nation adapts to their ever-evolving circumstances will play a key role in ultimate success or otherwise this summer with June’s European Championships and the Olympic Games only six weeks later on the horizon.
Speaking ahead of the Green Army’s four-game series against Great Britain, the Irish skipper was “super excited” to get these high-quality games against the reigning Olympic champions into the agenda.
Ireland were originally hoping to be in Tokyo this month, scoping out the Olympic venue and getting some high-humidity training under their belt. Restrictions meant that plan was switched to Malaysia, but that 19-day tour also bit the dust on the eve of departure. It is indicative of the difficulties in the current COVID-19 environment. But Hockey Ireland acted quickly to work with Great Britain – who also withdrew from the trip to Malaysia – to arrange this latest 12-day camp. Although Ireland played GB as recently as March in the SoftCo Series, Mullan is delighted to meet them again so quickly.
“GB play such a fast, exciting version of hockey and that’s what we want to do too,” she said. “We’re excited to play international hockey and hit the pace we need to prepare for the Europeans [in June]. In a perfect world, playing the same team is not how you would want it, but we are grateful to get the games and it is very good preparation to focus on ourselves.”
Indeed, she is grateful Great Britain are available to play with other options currently limited. Many of the big leagues in Europe are closing in on their end of season playoffs while some nations like Australia, New Zealand and China have not been given clearance to travel to date.
“Every nation has their struggles in terms of best preparing getting out of Covid. You can see how much quicker Australia and New Zealand got out of lockdown and were able to train.
“In one sense, they got a couple of steps ahead. Now, they are not getting games which we are.
“Every team has their own personal journey and it’s going to be whoever manages those ups and downs best who will be the successful teams this summer, especially so for the European teams who have to go and peak twice with this being a qualifier for the World Cup.”
That is a complication Sean Dancer’s side will have to manage carefully. It is something they struggled with in 2017 when the Hockey World League semi-finals – the key World Cup qualifier – was followed just a month later by the European Championships. Ireland excelled at the former to earn their ticket to London 2018 but were close to burn-out for the second tournament and it almost cost them their place in Europe’s top tier.
“It’s been something we’ve spoken about a lot, the double-peak and what we learned from 2017. The biggest thing is back then we weren’t used to being together as a group throughout the year like we are now.
“We came into those tournaments for a very short, intense period of time but were not used to being in each other’s company as consistently.
“The fact we are together now in a semi-professional environment every week for a couple of days, it puts us in a better position and better prepared for the intensity of two international tournaments in one summer.
“It’s going to be a challenge and one we are very aware of. There’s lots we can do to prepare for it and have lots of expertise in the group to manage it.”
For the series at Bisham Abbey, coach Dancer has made a number of changes to the line-up from the SoftCo Series, one which will also be uncapped. There is the potential for UCC’s Caoimhe Perdue – a graduate of Ursulines in Thurles – to play her first minutes of senior international minutes following her inclusion.
UCD skipper Ellen Curran is also back for her first international camp since January 2020 when she scored Ireland’s most recent goal in a capped match, netting against Germany in Stellenbosch.
Lena Tice and Megan Frazer remain in Ireland as they manage injury concerns while Ayeisha McFerran stays in the Netherlands on club duty with SV Kampong.
The game against GB will not be streamed on this occasion.
Ireland squad for Bisham Abbey (April 22-May 2): Michelle Carey (UCD), Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins), Nicci Daly (Loreto), Deirdre Duke (Old Alex), Nikki Evans (Old Alex), Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union), Zara Malseed (Ards), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Sarah McAuley (Muckross), Shirley McCay (Pegasus), Hannah McLoughlin (UCD), Katie Mullan (Ballymoney), Lizzie Murphy (Loreto), Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross), Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union), Sarah Torrans (Loreto), Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute), Chloe Watkins (Monkstown), Ellen Curran (UCD), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC)
Remaining Match dates and times:
Tuesday 27 April: Great Britain v Ireland, 10am. Score GB 3 – 1 Ireland (O’Flanagan).
Wednesday 28 April: Great Britain v Ireland, 6pm
Friday 30 April: Great Britain v Ireland, 2pm
Sunday 2 May: Great Britain v Ireland, 1pm