IRELAND’S U-18 girls will be keen for success in other arenas to rub off when they get their Four Nations campaign underway at Garryduff in Cork tomorrow (6pm).
Richie Malone’s side features three Irish underage soccer internationals — skipper Deirdre Duke, livewire forward Naomi Carroll and Galway girl Dora Gorman, who recently captained the Irish U17 soccer side to a European final.
All will be key figures with a smaller ball this weekend — along with vice-captain Rebecca Barry, Katie Codyre and hometown girl Amy Kate Trevor — at a tournament also featuring England, Scotland and Wales. Malone’s side have warmed up in style for the tournament with a comprehensive series defeat of Scotland, as well as a win and a draw against Belgium, and will hope to take that form into their clashes with England, Wales and the Scots.
Meanwhile, two of the Irish U18 boys’ side will be keen to show their worth on familiar turf. Cork C of I duo Nick Burns and Ben Dobson are the local boys in a squad largely dominated by the successful Wesley and Banbridge school sides.
The former — who claimed three schools titles this year — provide five of the 18 player panel while Bann have three panellists, though their contingent could have been more had Robin Smyrl not succumbed to injury.
Glenanne’s top scorer from play last season, Shane O’Donoghue, dons the vice-captain duties along with Luke Chadwick. Irish Junior Cup winner Richard Sykes provides a corner threat, skipper Ian Sloan is the midfield general and Owen Magee — younger brother of decorated senior international Eugene — has followed his sibling’s lead as a top-quality goalscorer.
Further afield, Ireland’s U16 girls face the daunting task of figuring out how to stop one of the most goal-happy age grade Netherlands sides in recent memory at the EuroHockey Youth Nations Championships in Barcelona tonight (6.30pm).
Una McCarthy’s girls racked up their second 4-0 win of the tournament against Russia on Wednesday — with Munster girls Roisin Upton and Antonia McGrath both finding the net — to secure a coveted semi-final place.
But even those scoring feats have been put in the shade by the Dutch, who hit a mind-boggling 43 goals in their three pool games, including a facile 23-0 defeat of Lithuania.
The U18 boys’ side have a different weekend agenda, following their disappointing 3-3 draw with Russia on Wednesday that saw them miss out on a semi-final spot.
Needing to win by three against the pool whipping boys, the Irish skipped to a three-goal deficit, before reining the Russians in with strikes from Ross Canning, Jordan Sutton and Jeremy Duncan.
That draw was enough to avoid the wooden spoon, but they now go into Group C — the relegation pool — with one point and now must face the Czech Republic today and Poland tomorrow to decide their fate.
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