Graham Shaw gambles on Megan Frazer fitness

Stephen Findlater

Megan Frazer has been included in Graham Shaw’s squad of 18 players for next month’s World Cup in London despite concerns over her fitness.

It will be the first time Ireland have played at this level since 2002, lining out against USA in their first game on July 21 before meeting India and hosts England at a sold-out Lee Valley Stadium.

The Derry woman has only played a minimal role in Mannheimer HC’s season in Germany after three rounds of surgery on a knee ligament injury.

But coach Shaw is giving her every chance to make the tournament.

“She’s a serious talent, one that we haven’t seen around Irish hockey much for the last number of years so we have to give her every possible chance she can impact our team,” Shaw said at the announcement.

“For me, she lit up world hockey in 2014 and 2015 and was continuing that until the injury in 2016. It has been a very difficult period for her for 15 or 16 months.”

Frazer could make her international return in Cork next week when Ireland meet Japan three times at the Mardyke.

Nicci Daly is another fighting to be fit following a stress fracture in her foot. Otherwise, the squad is a reasonably settled one with all bar Roisin Upton with 50 caps to their name.

The half dozen Cork Harlequins players in the wider panel at the start of June ended up at just two representatives in the final reckoning with Upton and Yvonne O’Byrne getting the nod. Naomi Carroll misses out but remains on a reserves list alongside Sinead Loughran, Emily Beatty and Sarah Torrans.

A week earlier, Rebecca Barry, Emma Buckley and Cliodhna Sargent were informed they hadn’t made the cut.

It was especially tough on Sargent who had fought her way back into the wider panel following the birth of her first child last summer.

As one of only a handful of Irish players to pass 200 caps, Shaw said having to make a call on her inclusion was among the toughest decisions he has had to make.

“These women give every everything for it, they dedicate their lives to it,” he said.

“They get up early for the gym, train late at night. They also have their lives to deal with. Someone like Cliodhna, with a young family, it’s incredibly difficult.

“With her only returning to play in November, it maybe came a little bit too quick this time. She has given a lot to Irish hockey and her career is not over. She’s still part of our squad and we value her but, this time, we felt we had six more defenders just ahead of her at this moment in time.”

Ireland squad for the Hockey World Cup (July 21 – August 5, 2018)

Ayeisha McFerran (University of Louisville), Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Lena Tice (UCD), Zoe Wilson (Belfast Harlequins), Roisin Upton (Cork Harlequins), Shirley McCay (Pegasus), Katie Mullan (UCD), Nicci Daly (Loreto), Gillian Pinder (Pembroke), Megan Frazer (Mannheimer HC), Chloe Watkins (HC Bloemendaal), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins), Deirdre Duke (UCD), Nicola Evans (UHC Hamburg), Ali Meeke (Loreto), Anna O’Flanagan (HC Bloemendaal)

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