Versatile Emma Buckley looks set to win first Irish cap in Germany

Emma Buckley looks set to continue a trend of young Ireland senior debutants as the Mount Mercy College student is poised to win her first cap next week.

Versatile Emma Buckley looks set to win first Irish cap in Germany

The 18-year-old Cork Harlequins goalkeeper will need to take some time out from her Leaving Certificate studies to potentially make her Ireland debut against Germany in a pair of test matches in Dusseldorf.

It’s the latest in a meteroic rise for the Cork native, who was an intercounty and interpro soccer and camogie player as well as a highly-ranked taekwondo practicioner before belatedly turning to hockey as a goalkeeper just four years ago, while in second year.

“I tried hockey a few times in first year and did not like it much,” Buckley told last year. “I was waiting around after school for a friend who had hockey training when the school’s coach (Darren Collins) asked me to help out by standing in goal.

“I suited up and nervously stood on the goal line. As the hockey balls rained in on me, I surprised myself with how I was able to stop and deflect them. Using both feet and adjusting them quickly came naturally to me because of playing soccer. My hand-eye coordination for the higher balls also seemed to work pretty well, no doubt due to my years of playing camogie.”

Buckley was hooked and despite initially struggling to balance hockey with her various sporting commitments with Holyhill AFC and Na Piarsaigh, joined Cork Harlequins and went on to make the Munster and Ireland U18 teams in the 2014/15 season.

She captained her country during last summer’s U18 European championships in Cork and has been a key member of the Quins first team who are riding high in the EY Hockey League, putting in a superb show in their Irish Senior Cup final defeat to UCD last weekend.

Buckley is among two goalkeeping changes for Ireland with Grace O’Flanagan returning while Clodagh Cassin and Ayeisha McFerran step back this time. Her Ireland U18 team-mate Ellen Curran also gets a call-up alongside Ali Meeke, Deirdre Duke and Emily Beatty while Lizzie Colvin, Chloe Watkins, Naomi Carroll and Cliodhna Sargent are not available from the Malaysia selection.

Meanwhile, Banbridge took a major step towards winning the regular EY Hockey League season after a 3-0 win over Lisnagarvey in midweek. They now lie a point behind leaders Three Rock Rovers, but a game in hand means their destiny is in their own hands going into the final couple of rounds.

It’s a massive weekend for Cork Church of Ireland’s hopes of making the playoffs as they host leaders Rovers at Garryduff tomorrow (2.30pm). C of I won for the first time in four outings thanks to a late Simon Wolfe salvo at Instonians last weekend, while Rovers are seeking a 10th successive victory.

Elsewhere, a number of clubs will take their first steps on the road to the EY Hockey League as the provincial playoffs - which serve as the national league’s qualifiers - get underway at Monkstown HC’s Merrion Fleet Arena this weekend.

Cork C of I’s women and Cork Harlequins men fly the flag for Munster at this stage after finishing second in their provincial leagues, with Bandon men and UCC women through to the next round as Munster champions.

C of I take on Muckross and Old Alex from Leinster plus Ulster’s Ballymoney and Queens University, while Quins have Annadale, Belfast Harlequins, YMCA and Clontarf to contend with in a busy weekend of four games in two days.

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