Sean Dancer has given Emma Buckley, Ellen Curran, Hannah McLoughlin, Sarah Torrans and Emily Beatty an early chance to stake a claim for a place in the Irish women’s Olympic squad.
They have been named in a 20-player panel for a warm-weather tour to South Africa where they will meet the home country – who will be Ireland’s first opponent in Tokyo next July 25 – and Germany in test matches.
That youthful quintet comes into the line-up which features 15 of the side that won their Olympic qualifier against Canada in November. Gillian Pinder and Nicci Daly have only played a fleeting role for their clubs in the first half of the season and will sit out this tour as will Zoe Wilson but Roisin Upton is involved with her broken wrist set to be adequately healed in time for the January 16 departure for warmer climes.
The selection comes from a wider panel of 35 that has been assembled which features a number of eye-catching names, none more so than Emma Smyth.
The 33-year-old Railway Union midfielder retired in June 2015 in the wake of the Green Army’s failed Olympic qualification for Rio, missing out by the width of a post.
She took a season off last term for the birth of her child but has since been a strong influence this season since her return to club action.
At the other end of the spectrum, UCD’s Carey twins Niamh and Michelle have also been included for the first time, making it two sets of twins involved in addition to the Barrs, Serena and Bethany.
Uncapped teenagers Christina Hamill, Caoimhe Perdue and goalkeeper Ellie McLoughlin also have a chance to stake a claim in the side but margins are tight. While the qualifiers allowed for a panel of 18 players, the Olympics themselves will only have 16 spots with two to three reserves waiting in the wings.
The full schedule for Tokyo 2020, meanwhile, was confirmed on Tuesday morning. After that initial date against the tournament low-ranked side, South Africa, on July 25, next on the agenda will be world number one side the Netherlands two days later before facing Germany on July 29 and India on July 31.
A tie against Great Britain completes the six-team group from which a top four spot will earn a place in the quarter-finals.
Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, GK), Emma Buckley (Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles, GK), Roisin Upton (Catholic Institute), Nikki Evans (Old Alex), Kathryn Mullan (Captain, Ballymoney), Shirley McCay (Pegasus), Megan Frazer (Ulster Elks), Lena Tice (UCD), Emily Beatty (Pembroke), Gillian Pinder (Pembroke), Beth Barr (Belfast Harlequins), Serena Barr (Belfast Harlequins), Chloe Watkins (Monkstown), Lizzie Colvin (Belfast Harlequins), Nicola Daly (Loreto), Hannah Matthews (Loreto), Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union), Anna O’Flanagan (Vice Captain, Muckross), Zoe Wilson (Randalstown), Deirdre Duke (Old Alex), Ellen Curran (UCD), Alison Meeke (Loreto), Elizabeth Murphy (Loreto, GK), Yvonne O’Byrne (Cork Harlequins), Grace O’Flanagan (Railway Union, GK), Ellie McLoughlin (Muckross, GK), Caoimhe Perdue (UCC), Niamh Carey (UCD), Michelle Carey (UCD), Hannah McLoughlin (UCD), Sarah Torrans (Loreto), Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute), Aisling Naughton (Pembroke), Emma Smyth (Railway Union), Christina Hamill (Loreto)
Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, India, South Africa
Australia, Argentina, New Zealand, Spain, China, Japan
July 25: Ireland v South Africa (12.15 pm)
July 27: Ireland v Netherlands (1.00 am)
July 29: Ireland v Germany (3.00 am)
July 31: Ireland v India (2.45 am)
August 1: Ireland v Great Britain (11.45 am)