Ireland are ready to meet challenge of cut throat Euros: McCay

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Ireland’s most capped sports person, Shirley McCay, insists the women’s senior hockey team have to continue to build confidence and momentum as a squad as they go into a busy summer.

The Irish side put on an impressive display during the recent FIH Series Finals held at Banbridge Hockey Club.

Ireland reached the final only to lose 3-1 to Korea.

However, it was a bittersweet defeat as the previous day’s semi-final 4-0 win over Czech Republic secured them a place in the next stage of the Olympic Games qualification process to Tokyo 2020.

The World Cup silver medallists will now go into a two-legged play-off with a lower ranked nation, hopefully with home advantage, with the winner booking their tickets to Japan.

The line-up and host teams for the qualifiers will be determined based on the updated world rankings which will be confirmed following the five continental championships.

It could be October or November before that crunch fixture is confirmed, but ahead of that Ireland will compete in the European Championships.

And it also marks an exciting period with Australian Sean Dancer coming in as head coach.

At the European Championships in Antwerp in August, Ireland initially face Germany, England and Belarus in the group stages and that presents a difficult task if they are to reach the semi-finals.

McCay said the Europeans were one of the toughest tournaments to compete in.

“It is cut throat, you either go into the semi-finals of into a relegation pool,” explained McCay.

“There is no room for error and it is a short turnaround again.

“We are looking forward to the Europeans, we deserve to be there and we are going to be trying hard for that semi-final position and seeing what happens, so there is lots to look forward to,” she added.

The recent FIH series was the first time the squad had been together since winning silver at the World Cup last year and while there will be some work ons ahead of Antwerp, McCay feels the squad are in a good place.

“We will be looking at our general basic play, and taking those chances when they do come along and being solid in defence.

“I think we probably struggled with their aerial threat, we did speak about it and were aware of it but maybe we found it difficult to defend against.

We are looking forward as a team, we have had some new additions recently, Chole Brown came in this weekend and those girls are really pushing the competitiveness in the squad so it is important we build on that and continue to get confidence and build momentum.”

Although there was some disappointment not being able to finish off the FIH Series Finals with an outright win, continuing the Olympic qualification process was critical.

McCay said: “Yeah the Olympic Dream is still there.

“We lost to Korea but we have got our ticket to qualification and we are going to everything we can now to make sure we are ready for November to make sure we go to Tokyo.

“It is strange having qualified for a tournament and then losing today.

“I think we will look back on it as a missed opportunity. There was the disallowed goal, but we also created plenty of other chances.

“We dominated phases and it just shows when you do not take your chances you can get punished,” she added.