Dragon slayer

Katie Shana­han on a mid­fielder who has 72 caps for her coun­try but is keen for higher hon­ours

The Hockey Paper - - NEWS -

We talk to Sarah Jones, fly­ing the flag for Wales in the GB squad

NOT only is Sarah Jones now play­ing in a team that last sum­mer were crowned Olympic cham­pi­ons, but she also has the added pres­sure of fly­ing the flag for her coun­try.

Jones has 72 caps for Wales to her name and those per­for­mances for her coun­try saw her se­lected to join the Great Bri­tain cen­tral pro­gramme for the new Olympic cy­cle un­der Danny Kerry.

She is not alone ei­ther, with goal­keeper Rose Thomas and de­fender Daniel Kyr­i­akides also mak­ing it through the GB as­sess­ment pe­riod for the women’s and men’s teams re­spec­tively that ended in De­cem­ber.

That means that Wales have a three-strong con­tin­gent in the Great Bri­tain set-up, with their last rep­re­sen­ta­tion com­ing from Lon­don 2012 bronze medal­list Sarah Thomas.

And 26-year-old Jones is de­ter­mined to show just what Welsh hockey is all about, with the side still in the mix for 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

“I am still com­pletely chuffed,” she said. “Even though it’s some­thing that I have been work­ing to­wards for quite a long time, I don’t think I ever re­ally ex­pected it to hap­pen.

“So yeah, it was quite sur­pris­ing news and when the email came through I was very sur­prised but happy. I think it’s re­ally nice as the last per­son to be in­volved in the GB squad was Sarah Thomas in the Lon­don Olympic cy­cle.

“I am pretty proud that me, Rose for the girls and Dan for the boys got se­lected, and hope­fully it shows that Wales have come a long way.

“Also, the fact that we had other peo­ple tri­alling shows how far we’ve come, as we have been build­ing like this for the past six years or so.

“I think there has been a change of mind­set in Hockey Wales to get more peo­ple through to the Great Bri­tain pro­gramme and to be fair, they’ve got three peo­ple in and that’s quite suc­cess­ful.

“I’m def­i­nitely proud and I’m also quite ex­cited to learn things from Great Bri­tain hockey to take back.

“For me, when I was younger, I learnt so much from the Wales se­nior girls, and now I’m one of those, so hope­fully Rose and I can take things back and the next gen­er­a­tion can learn from us.”

De­spite be­ing ea­ger to get go­ing in the GB set-up, Jones joined the squad late as she was help­ing Wales’s women to fin­ish fourth at the World League 2 event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, back in Jan­uary.

Wales made his­tory when they qual­i­fied for Round 2 in Septem­ber, and their sub­se­quent per­for­mance in Malaysia sug­gests a bright fu­ture for a squad who are eye­ing the Com­mon­wealth Games and hop­ing to qual­ify for the event, which takes place on the Gold Coast next year.

“We played well in Kuala Lumpur, we did bet­ter than we were ranked,” Jones added. “It was a first time in such a big event for a load of us and apart from a cou­ple I don’t think any­one had played out­side Europe be­fore.

“It was all com­pletely new – play­ing against Asian op­po­si­tion is com­pletely dif­fer­ent to what we are used to, it’s like play­ing a dif­fer­ent sport.

“Play­ing against them was hard, but I think we did well. We also put in some good per­for­mances against Italy and Ire­land who are ranked a lot higher than us. I think it showed we are learn­ing quite quickly.

“It’s just a shame that be­tween Jan­uary and April – be­cause of fund­ing and time – we don’t get more time to­gether and it al­most feels like if we have time apart we might take steps back.

“So hope­fully when we get to­gether in April we can build

PIC­TURE: FIH

Learn­ing curve: World League 2 was a ma­jor chal­lenge for Wales mid­fielder Sarah Jones

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