Thursday 17 August 2017

American idol Upton ready to end Ireland's World Cup wait

Upton hopes to end Ireland women’s 16-year World Cup absence. Photo: Sportsfile
Upton hopes to end Ireland women’s 16-year World Cup absence. Photo: Sportsfile

Barry Lennon

Former US college champion Roisin Upton spearheads Ireland’s women as they begin their bid to reach the World Cup this morning.

The rising Limerick star captained the University of Connecticut to a second consecutive NCAA title victory in 2014, and today prepares for Japan in the national side’s first World League pool game in Johannesburg.

The 23-year-old returned home from the US last year after four years of hockey, a psychology degree and enjoying American football in the college’s 40,000-seater stadium.

Her focus since is with Cork Harlequins and a Masters in Primary Education at Mary Immaculate College. But winning the top US prize twice is hard to forget.

“It’s funny because I was surrounded by girls who almost dreamt of it (winning the title) their whole life. It’s a big deal over there to win the NCAA,” she recalls.

“There’s an understanding of what it means at home. But it’s like trying to explain how big winning an All-Ireland is to somebody outside of Ireland.”

Upton admits she was initially reluctant when her mother first suggested a scholarship to the States during her Leaving Cert. Her focus was then, as it is now, on making the Irish team.

She finally earned her first cap against Scotland last year, after  overcoming persistent injuries which saw her undergo double hip surgery.

“That was my first game for 12 months because of my hips,” she says. “(Ireland coach) Graham Shaw was really understanding with me. I then went to Malaysia with the team and it’s been hockey, hockey, hockey since.”

Upton hopes to end Ireland women’s 16-year World Cup absence by progressing beyond their pool and finishing in the top five of the competition.

Ireland’s men, who recently beat powerhouses Germany, must also achieve the same result to make next year’s tournament.

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