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Sean Dancer names Irish squad and insists door remains open for both Chloe Watkins and Anna O’Flanagan

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Ireland's Anna O'Flanagan, left, and Chloe Watkins with their World Cup silver medals from 2018 during the homecoming in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland's Anna O'Flanagan, left, and Chloe Watkins with their World Cup silver medals from 2018 during the homecoming in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland's Anna O'Flanagan, left, and Chloe Watkins with their World Cup silver medals from 2018 during the homecoming in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Irish hockey coach Sean Dancer says his door remains open for veteran stars Anna O’Flanagan and Chloe Watkins, the two noticeable absentees from his squad for the upcoming World Cup.

Both not only starred for the Irish side at the last World Cup (2018) and in their subsequent historic Olympic campaign but played pivotal roles in the 2022 World Cup qualifying tournament last autumn.

Watkins (30) has been the main creative force in the Irish panel for the past decade while record top-scorer Flanagan (32) scored four of Ireland’s nine goals in that qualifying competition in Pisa last October, including her brace to beat Wales in the final. Dancer said both have since chosen to take a break but clarified that neither has retired.

“They could have looked for a break after the Olympics but didn’t. They played on and were two key players for us in the qualifiers so then I created a bit of space for them to think about things. In February, both of them felt that they wanted to have this summer to themselves for work/life reasons,” he said. “They certainly haven’t retired and the door is always open to them if they come back.”

Dancer’s team now contains just five – Katie Mullan, Ayeisha McFerran, Róisín Upton, Lena Tice and Deirdre Duke – of the side who rocked their sport globally by winning that World Cup silver.

His new-look squad includes five uncapped players. Irish U-21 captain Caoimhe Perdue (UCC), Christina Hamill and Siofra O’Brien (both Loreto HC) all starred in the Junior World Cup in April and Katie McKee (Pegasus) and Charlotte Beggs (Ulster Elks) also impressed in recent challenge matches against Scotland and Japan. Ireland’s tough World Cup opener on July 2 is against the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

“Holland are a step above everybody in the world and have been for a long time so the first game in front of a sell-out crowd of 10,000 will be a huge occasion for some of these players but we have nothing to lose. It’s a great opportunity.”

Ireland play Germany (world rank fifth) on July 6 but need to win just one game in their group to get into play-offs for a quarter-final spot.

Ireland squad — A McFerran, E Murphy, C Perdue, C Beggs, C Hamill, D Duke, E Curran, E Getty, H McLoughlin, K McKee, K Mullan, L Tice, M Carey, N Carroll, R Upton, S Hawkshaw, S McAuley, S Torrans, S O’Brien, Z Malseed.

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