FOUR uncapped players have been included in the Ireland women’straining squad as they begin their build-up to next April’s World Cup qualifier in Chile.
UCC’s Audrey O’Flynn and Leinster trio Niamh Atcheler, Nicci Daly and goalkeeper Helen Stevenson and are the new faces in Gene Muller’s 24-strong panel.
Louisa Healy, Rachel Mulligan and Niamh Small are all back in contention as is Julia O’Halloran, following a year out from the national panel due to study commitments.
Of those who finished fifth at the European championships in Amsterdam during the summer, Cathy McKean has retired, while keeper Emma Gray is unavailable. Megan Frazer – a cousin of Manchester United midfielder Darron Gibson – is included following an impressive start to her career with the University of Maryland Terrapins.
Domestically, Catholic Institute will face their first major test of the season when they come calling to Farmer’s Cross to take on Munster champions Cork Harlequins tomorrow (3.15pm). Ger O’Carroll’s side sit proudly at the top of the table, and have a 100% record in all competitions this far. But tomorrow, for the first time this season, they play one of the three sides who finished above them last term, and they will be keen to prove they can mix it with the best.
UCC’s encounter with Cork C of I at Garryduff is another clash which could have a big say in the respective sides’ title ambitions. The students’ challenge faltered last term on the back of two defeats to Phil Oakley’s side, but College have a psychological advantage having ousted C of I from the Munster Senior Cup on penalty strokes last weekend. However, their cause will not be helped by the unavailability of goalkeeper Karen Olden, while defender Orla Crowley and forward Vicky O’Sullivan miss out with broken hands.
UL have had a torrid season so far, but have a new coach in Spaniard Albert Valls and will be targeting their visit to Ashton as an opportunity to pick up their first points of the season. However, the Blackrock outfit – and Cliodhna Murphy in particular – are having a good season after a slow start, and know a win here would consolidate their current position as ‘best of the rest’.
In the men’s league, the top three will all expect to pick up maximum points in their final pre-Christmas games. C of I host UCC tonight, while Institute head to Quins and Bandon welcome Quins B tomorrow.
In Leinster, the men’s league took a significant twist in midweek as two magnificent Davy Carson strikes gave Corinthian a shock 2-1 win over champions Pembroke Wanderers to re-take the lead at the summit.
The reds must now hope pride doesn’t come before a fall, as they tackle Monkstown tomorrow. Pembroke host UCD, with Glenanne – who are 13 points off the pace but have five gams in hand – visiting YMCA.
Railway Union and Loreto underlined their superiority in the women’s league on Wednesday, trouncing Trinity (5-0) and Glenanne (7-0) respectively. The duo are locked on 21 points each, five clear of third-placed Hermes, and will lock horns tomorrow in a potential Christmas cracker at Park Avenue.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved