Thursday 5 December 2019

Ireland drawn in same Olympic group as Netherlands and GB

Sean Dancer: Planning for Tokyo. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Sean Dancer: Planning for Tokyo. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Findlater

Ireland's women have been confirmed to play in an Olympic group with the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, India and South Africa next summer in Tokyo.

The pool breakdown, which was based on world rankings, was finalised following South Africa's acceptance of their invitation to send a women's side to the Games as African continental champions.

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While each continent gets one entry, SASCOC, the country's Olympic committee, had said this was not sufficient to send a women's team as they did not meet their own internal criteria. But they performed an about-turn and the world number 16 side will now take up their place.

It makes the Irish women's shoot-out win over Canada earlier this month all the more significant. Had Ireland been beaten, they would have been the side to profit from a "lucky loser" if SASCOC followed through on their threat.

As such, it offers Ireland a seemingly easier opponent in the group than hosts - and 14th-ranked - Japan. The Green Army will need to finish in the top four of the six-team group to advance to the quarter-finals, something which looks eminently achievable.

Ireland, eighth in the world, have never lost to India in a world-ranking fixture, while they pushed Germany and GB in the summer.

Coach Sean Dancer has been putting his plans in place for the new year with a warm-weather camp in January in South Africa. They will then jet out to Malaysia for a camp in March, where preparation for the stifling humidity will be the target.

On home turf over the weekend, Loreto scored the most notable victory when they broke Pegasus' unbeaten run with a 3-2 success at Beaufort.

Second-half goals from Sarah Torrans, Sarah Evans and skipper Hayley Mulcahy overturned a half-time deficit. It leaves a three-way tie at the top, with each team on nine points. Pembroke are top on goal difference, followed by Pegasus and Old Alex.

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