Audrey O’Flynn will face up to the biggest test of her fledgling international career next month after she was yesterday named in Gene Muller’s 18-strong Ireland squad for the World Cup Qualifiers in Chile.
The five-times capped UCC captain is the squad’s main bolter, and displaces 80-cap veteran Emma Stewart of Armagh, in what was likely to have been the primary marginal call for Muller. Nicci Daly and Rachel Mulligan are the others to lose out.
O’Flynn’s drag-flicking prowess probably made Muller’s decision somewhat easier; she rifled in three goals in two games in practice matches against Germany U21 last weekend.
Muller has reshuffled his defence ahead of the Santiago test, with Loreto midfielder Nikki Symmons now occupying the sweeper role, while O’Flynn has been moved from central defence to a full-back berth.
The composition of the rest of the panel for the tournament, which takes place from April 24 – May 2, is as expected.
Catholic Institute’s Eimear Cregan will skipper the team from the front, with Ballymoney defender Bridget Cleland her deputy.
Ireland’s form has been somewhat iffy this year, and the presence of world number five Australia in their pool means they must pull off a significant shock to qualify for the August showpiece in Argentina.
With just one team to advance from the six-strong pool – which also includes Chile, Ukraine, Malaysia and Scotland – the girls in green will attempt to play to their number two seeding for a one-off shot in the final, likely to be against the Hockeyroos.
Muller said: “Our main aim will be performing to our potential. Our preparation has been thorough and we have no immediate injury scares, which bodes well for the team.
“There are no easy points given the evenly-matched nature of the teams, so mental toughness will be paramount to progress. Australia are the obvious stand-out team having recent lost in the Champions Trophy final.”
IRELAND women’s squad for World Cup qualifier, Santiago, Chile (April 24-May 2): M Goode (GK, Bray), L Healy (GK, Loreto); B Cleland (Ballymoney, vice-capt), L Colvin (Loreto), E Cregan (Catholic Institute, capt), R Flinn (Old Alex), M Frazer (University of Mayland, USA), M Harvey (Pegasus), L Jacob (UCD), S McCay (Dragons, Belgium), A O’Flynn (UCC), J O’Halloran (UCC), C Sargent (Cork Harlequins), N Small (Loreto), E Smyth (Railway Union), A Speers (Dragons, Belgium), N Symmons (Loreto).
Qualifier pool (world ranking in brackets): Australia (5th), Ireland (15th), Chile (16th), Ukraine (21st), Malaysia (22nd), Scotland (23rd).