Young Irish side face baptism of fire against fearsome Netherlands – The Irish Times
Lena Tice isn’t the only one who finds it hard to believe that four years have passed since one of the most remarkable achievements of any Irish team on the international stage, when she was part of a team that won silver at the World Cup in London.
“It’s amazing how time flies,” she says, “it really feels like yesterday.”
But a new World Cup adventure is about to begin with Ireland facing the daunting task of facing co-hosts the Netherlands in their opening match in Amsterdam (6.30pm, Saturday), the Dutch, who beat Ireland 6-0 in the 2018 final, seeking their third straight World Cup.
The Irish team taking on this challenge is almost unrecognizable from the one that competed in London, Tice one of five survivors from that group, along with captain Katie Mullan, goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, Róisín Upton and Deirdre Duke.
A combination of retirements, players taking a break from international hockey, such as Chloe Watkins and Anna O’Flanagan, and others since losing their positions, has resulted in a team with an average age of just 24, with five of the newcomers yet to win an official cap.
“Before, I felt like the baby of the team, so it seems like that changed overnight,” says Tice, who is now the team’s third most capped player.
“It’s unbelievable that there are only five of us left from London. I’ve been on the team for about seven years and it was pretty much the same group the whole time. It’s sad not to play with them anymore, but that’s the nature of the sport.
“But there’s a fearlessness about the young players who have come in, they’re not intimidated by anyone, they just come out believing they can mix it up with any team we come across. I think that’s a whole new perspective, something we had to develop over the years, maybe something we had to earn. But it benefits us now.
There has of course also been a coaching change since London, with Australian Sean Dancer taking over in 2019 when Graham Shaw took over as New Zealander. Dancer then led Ireland to their first-ever Olympics qualification, but after losing so many of their most experienced players, it will be a tall order to match that 2018 feat.
Eleven of the 16-member squad are ranked ahead of Ireland, who are in 12th place in the world list, with the Dutch firm favorites to extend a remarkable record in the tournament – they have reached 12 of 14 finals, in winning eight of them. , with only Argentina, Australia and Germany interrupting their reign.
Curiously, they co-organize the tournament with Spain whose Olympic stadium in Terrassa, 20 kilometers from Barcelona, will host the semi-finals and the final.
Ireland need to finish in the top three of their pool if they want to stay in the pack, an achievable goal given that it includes Chile, the tournament’s lowest-ranked team. This match takes place on Tuesday (1.0) before Ireland meet Germany the next day (3.30) in their final group game; both also contested in Amsterdam, the Germans finished sixth in the world.
“You have to look at your group and figure out what your target plays are, get a sense of how it might play out,” says Tice. “It goes without saying that the game for the Netherlands is going to be difficult, they are the best in the world by a kilometer. Our target match will be Chile, then against Germany, well, anything can happen.
“Obviously it would be a huge effort to do what we did in London – we’re ranked 12th in the world, so we’re looking at it realistically. But we’re going to approach it exactly like we did in 2018, just trying to perform well in every game and see what happens, we know what we are capable of as a group.
Ireland’s match against the Netherlands will be broadcast live on BT Sport/ESPN, with BT Sport covering the entire tournament on its various channels. The RTE News channel will broadcast the matches against Chile and Germany live, with “further coverage of the matches subject to confirmation after the group stage”.
swimming pools (world ranking in brackets) – A: Netherlands (1), Germany (6), Ireland (12), Chile (17); B: England (4), New Zealand (9), India (8), China (13); VS: Argentina (2), Spain (7), South Korea (11), Canada (14); D: Australia (3), Belgium (5), Japan (10), South Africa (15).