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Olympic hockey qualifiers: Ireland women’s countdown to Tokyo matches

Irish women’s hockey will be aiming for Tokyo now  PIC: England Hockey

Munster’s Roisin Upton hopes the 2018 World Cup can be recreated with a sea of green when Ireland women run out for their Olympic play-offs this weekend.

The world silver medallists in London last summer, have host rights in their Tokyo qualifier against Canada, two matches being played at the 6,000 capacity at Donnybrook which will feature a pop-up pitch.

The match will take on extra significance with the women’s side attempting to qualify as Ireland’s sole hockey representative at Tokyo 2020.

It follows the controversy surrounding Ireland men’s exit last weekend against Canada, and the fall out throughout the week, mainly on social media, as players have continued to seek answers in defeat.

The women’s games, however, will offer some respite as the Green Machine attempt to claim another chapter in the team’s rise and a further lift for Irish women’s sport after the success last summer at Lee Valley.

Upton said: “Just before every game [at the World Cup] they would do a countdown. They would ask the crowd to cheer for the teams, and when they asked them to cheer for the Irish there would be this booming sound taking over the stadium, and that was from our first game.

“It always makes a difference. We can hear it and we can feel it on the warm- up. We can sense that atmosphere.”

Upton will be one of a raft of Irish World Cup silver medallists searching for a first Olympic Games berth.

Captain Katie Mullan said: “We know Canada are a good team, we have a huge amount of respect for them.

“They are fighting for their first Olympics (since 1992), like us and we will be prepared to match them. They’ll face a tenacious, hard-working group of girls that are close-knit and will fight for every ball together.

“It would mean absolutely everything to us to qualify for the Olympics.”

Megan Frazer has been ruled out of the Canada Games after failing to recover from an injury sustained two months ago.

Ireland women’s squad

Ayeisha McFerran (GK, Ulster), Roisin Upton (Munster), Nikki Evans (Leinster), Kathryn Mullan (C) (Ulster), Shirley McCay (Ulster), Elena Tice (Leinster), Gillian Pinder (Leinster), Beth Barr (Ulster), Serena Barr (Ulster), Chloe Watkins (Leinster), Lizzie Colvin (Ulster), Nicola Daly (Leinster), Hannah Matthews (Leinster), Sarah Hawkshaw (Leinster), Anna O’Flanagan (VC)(Leinster), Zoe Wilson (Ulster), Deirdre Duke (Leinster), Elizabeth Murphy (Leinster).

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