Ireland skipper Katie Mullan says adaptability will be key to European success

Ireland’s Katie Mullan says the manner in which each nation adapts to ever-changing circumstances brought about by the Covid-19 situation will play a key role in hopes for success in the European Championships in June and the Olympic Games this summer.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 1:13 pm

Speaking ahead of the Green Army’s four-game series against Great Britain, the Irish skipper said she was “super excited” to have the chance to participate in high-quality games against the reigning Olympic champions.

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 Ireland’s planned departure due to the Covid-19 situation.

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Ireland's Katie Mullan. INPHO/Bryan Keane

However, 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 were available to play with other options currently limited.

Many of the big leagues in Europe are closing in on their end of season play-offs while some nations like Australia, New Zealand and China have not been yet been given clearance to travel.

“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,” she said.

“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 and is something they struggled with in 2017, when the Hockey World League semi-finals – the key World Cup qualifier – were 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,” Taylor adde. 

“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.”

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)

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