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Dublin clubs boosted by international programme

An ambitious plan to see Ireland's hockey women qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics will have knock-on effects on the club scene.

With qualification depending on a good performance at next year's Euro Hockey Nations Championships, national coach Gene Muller has selected a panel of 24 players for intensive training at a central location over the forthcoming winter. Of these, 17 will be based in Dublin, with five players having moved from clubs in Munster and Ulster.

Hermes in particular will benefit, with UCC's Audrey O'Flynn and Cork Harlequins' Sinead McCarthy joining the Booterstown-based club and Lisa Jacob returning from UCD.

On the minus side, Chloe Watkins and Niamh Atcheler move from Hermes to UCD, where they will be studying.

Remaining with Hermes are Emma Gray and Anna O'Flanagan. Coach to the first team this season is former Hermes player and Irish captain Mary Logue.

In two years with UCD, Logue helped the students to a memorable Irish Senior Cup victory. She also coached the Irish U-18 team.

National champions Railway Union have attracted Alex Speer to Dublin from Belgium and Julia O'Halloran from UCC.

They join a strong squad that includes Nikki Evans, Jean McDonnell and Emma Smyth and will aim to retain both Leinster and national titles.

Also returning to the domestic scene is Shirley McCay who joins Old Alex after a year with Dragons in Antwerp. Lizzie Colvin is also expected to return home from Holland.

Continuing to play with Loreto will be Nikki Symmons and Niamh Small, while playing with Old Alex is new Irish goalkeeper Pam Smithwick.

Taking a break from international hockey are goalkeepers Mary Goode and Louisa Healy. Under the new system, the team will start training together from October 18. In an interesting contrast, a dozen players from the men's squad have joined top clubs in Europe.

League hockey begins this weekend, with the pick of the men's matches a Tallaght showdown between defending champions Pembroke Wanderers and old rivals Glenanne. In their Neville Cup match last weekend, Wanderers only beat Three Rock Rovers on strokes.

Defending women's champions Railway Union, coached by Mick McKinnon, play host to Bray at Park Avenue, Hermes face Pembroke at Serpentine Avenue, while Loreto travel to Tallaght to face Glenanne.