, , ,

Park Developments extend Hockey Ireland agreement as Ireland Senior Women’s squad prepares to travel to South America

DUBLIN 30 Jan 2023: Hockey Ireland is delighted to announce a four-year extension to its current agreement with Park Developments, one of Ireland’s leading Property Development Groups, for continued investment in Irish Women’s Hockey.

It comes as the Ireland Senior Women’s squad prepares to travel to South America for a series of games against Argentina and Chile.

Park Developments’ initial agreement was signed in 2019 for four years and this continued investment in the success and development of the women’s squad comes as they begin the road to the Paris Olympics.

The financial investment will also be used to fund the Hockey Ireland Hockey4All inclusion programme and the Hockey4All National Representative Team.

The programme aims to offer young people with disabilities an opportunity to become part of the local hockey community, to keep healthy (socially, mentally and physically) and have fun in a team sport.

Commenting on the agreement Park Developments Director Jilly Cotter said,

“We are delighted to renew our support for the Irish Women’s Hockey team and to reinforce our commitment to this incredible group of Hockey players until 2027. Our investment is focused on direct athlete support by way of bursaries to assist them in their daily lives and to support them to perform at the highest level on the global stage. We are also delighted to expand our support to include the “Hockey4All” Program as a key area for development within the Hockey family, by supporting young people with disabilities and giving them an opportunity to play and enjoy the game.”

Ireland Women’s Head Coach Sean Dancer has included uncapped Loreto defender Caitlin Sherin in a squad of nineteen to travel to Argentina and Chile.

Katie McKee from Pegasus returns to the panel after missing out on the Nations Cup in Valencia before Christmas.

Tokyo Olympians Ayeisha McFerran, Deirdre Duke and Sarah Torrans are unavailable.

“This extension underlines the very supportive and engaged partnership we have shared with Park Developments since 2019 and it complements the unprecedented successes of our Senior Women’s International Team, with their first ever Olympic qualification in 2020 and history making World Cup silver medal in 2018” said Hockey Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy.

“The addition of support for our Hockey4All programme comes at an important time also, as we look to expand our inclusion initiative by moving into more Clubs and forming more teams. We very much look forward to continuing our successful partnership with Park Developments as new and exciting times for Hockey Ireland lie ahead.”

Squad List:
1 Elizabeth MURPHY
2 Holly MICKLEM
3 Róisín UPTON (VC)
4 Elena TICE
5 Caitlin SHERIN
6 Sarah McAULEY
7 Ellen CURRAN
8 Hannah McLOUGHLIN
9 Caoimhe PERDUE
10 Kathryn MULLAN (C)
11 Sarah HAWKSHAW
12 Michelle CAREY
13 Charlotte BEGGS
14 Christina HAMILL
15 Katie McKEE
16 Niamh CAREY
17 Naomi CARROLL
18 Zara MALSEED
19 Siofra O’BRIEN

Glencairn Gate, Leopardstown, Co Dublin 30/1/2023
Park Developments announces a four-year extension to its current agreement with Hockey Ireland until 2027, a significant boost to the continued investment in Irish Women’s Hockey since 2018 and in the buildup to Paris 2024 and beyond
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Spar Indoor series

Experienced South Africa win tight Spar Indoor Series

Ireland Indoor Women’s team lost their six-game Spar Indoor Series 2-0 in Cape Town this week. It was a heartening trip for Ross Willis’ charges. He saw vast improvement in his side since these two teams met in Ireland last February – when South Africa won a five-game series 4-1.

The first two games of the trip finished one goal apiece, with Ireland leading the first through a Chloe Brown penalty corner late on, only to see South Africa level from their own corner with a minute left on the clock.

The second match was the first of four that took place in the Wynberg Military Base in front of a huge crowd of over 1,500 spectators, with all the bells and whistles that go along with top-level indoor hockey. Mikayla Power was the goalscorer for Ireland, equalising with a classy upright backhand into the bottom corner in a cagey match.

Game three was a high-scoring tie, South Africa taking the lead three times and Ireland equalising on every occasion. But this is a game Ireland will look back on with regret as they will feel they had the chances to win it and go one up in the series. At three goals to two down, Ireland were awarded a penalty stroke which they missed. Soon after, they won another stroke, this time Orla Fox converted to level the game. The girls in green had further chances to win the match, but the hosts managed to hold out for the draw.

South Africa came back strong in game four, showing all of their experience in a 5-2 win. Ireland managed to stay within touching distance of the home side until the last six minutes when, with Ireland pushing to draw level, the hosts scored two in quick succession to make it a three-goal victory.

The fifth game of the series was another 3-3 thriller. South Africa, once again, took the lead but Ireland equalised soon after through a Sarah Patton field goal – a well taken first-time finish after a pass from her sister, Orla. The girls in green then took the lead through an Orla Fox penalty corner, before South Africa equalised a minute later, only for Ireland to take the lead again a minute after that – Amy Benson tapping in at the back post. The last goal of the game belonged to the South Africans. They equalised in the 24th minute and neither side could break the deadlock for the last 15 minutes of the match.

The Spar Indoor Series went into its final match with South Africa just one win in the lead. The sixth match was arguably Ireland’s best performance. The girls in green went ahead in the fourth minute through an Orla Patton field goal when, after good work down the right, Chloe Brown crossed and Patton finished first-time high and into the net.

The visitors had their chances to extend their lead with a number of penalty corners, but they could not find the target. And then South Africa showed all of their experience when they equalised with five minutes on the clock before sealing the win with a field goal three minutes from the finish. The win gave South Africa the series victory, but it was a huge improvement on Ireland’s last visit there three years ago, when they lost 6-0.

, ,

Japan late strike consigns Ireland to fourth place in Nations Cup

After going in front twice, Ireland lost to Japan by the odd goal in five to finish in fourth position at the Women’s FIH Hockey Nations Cup this afternoon. Sean Dancer’s young side played an attractive brand of hockey all week, going toe-to-toe with some of the best sides in the world, but Japan’s cutting edge in front of goal made the difference in the end.

Despite a goalless first half, this bronze medal match was anything but cagey. Japan put pressure on the Ireland defence in the outlet, winning plenty of ball in their attacking half but tending to waste possession. Ireland, by contrast, looked dangerous on the counter, Carey twins Michelle and Niamh particularly dangerous using their speed and skill on the wings.
The third quarter was one for the neutral, four goals being scored as Ireland went in front twice, only for Japan to come back almost immediately on both occasions.

The Japan defence proved difficult to break down, so it was always going to take some magic to break the deadlock, and it was captain Katie Mullan who, with the deftest of touches, found a way through five minutes into the second half. Sarah McAuley hit a hopeful cross from the left side. Her bouncing ball went goalward and Mullan glanced the ball past her defender, slightly changing the line of the ball and wrongfooting the Japan goalkeeper.
The umpire referred to the video umpire, asking for confirmation that it did touch an Ireland stick. There was no advice possible and so the decision went with the on-field umpire – the goal stood and Ireland went one in front. Japan won their first penalty corner four minutes later, however, and though the initial shot was saved by Liz Murphy in goal, it fell kindly to the unmarked Mai Toriyama who didn’t need a second invitation to bring her side level.

The scores didn’t remain level for long, though, as Ireland went straight back down the pitch to win their first corner of the game, and an incredible team passing move saw Niamh Carey tap in a brilliantly executed routine to give Ireland the lead again in the 40th minute.

But not even a minute later, Ireland conceded yet another corner, and Japan showed their own precision with a roofed backhand deflection to draw level again.

In the end, it was, perhaps, indiscipline that cost Ireland, two green cards in the final quarter giving Japan the edge for four minutes of the toughest part of the game. With under five minutes to go, a beautifully struck ball from the right bounced through to a Japan player on the post who, under pressure from her defender, put the ball across goal in the air, and Japan captain Yuri Nagai tapped a difficult chance in to give her team the deciding goal.
Ireland withdrew their goalkeeper to play with 11 outfield for the last four minutes of the match, and the girls in green pushed hard for an equaliser with chances for Zara Malseed and Naomi Carroll, as well as a couple of penalty corners, but the Japan defence stood strong to hold out for the bronze medal.

Coach Sean Dancer is pleased with his team’s progress, if not today’s result. “Obviously we’re very disappointed not to get the third place today,” he admitted. “We felt we played some really good hockey over the last few days and we were up for the game today but credit to Japan, they were pretty good and they took their opportunities. So, we’re disappointed with today but overall, really pleased with what we’re doing.”

He is full of praise for the new tournament for nations just outside the top level. “I think Nations Cup is a great innovation by the FIH,” he said. “It allows teams just outside the top 10, like us, to play some quality games and it’s really important for us to play these games under pressure.

“Next year is a really big year for us. It’s all about preparation for Olympic qualifying and that’s going to be the next step. We need to go home from here, have a break, review the things that worked well and work really hard on those little details to get to the next step,” he finished.

Captain Katie Mullan can already see the bigger picture. “It’s been a fantastic week in terms of learning for this group,” she asserts. “We have come away finished higher than our ranking based off the teams that are here. We are disappointed today not to come away with the bronze medal, and we were disappointed not to get more out of the semi-final, but we are putting it up to some of the best teams in the world – India [whom Ireland lost to in a penalty shootout] finished third in the Pro League last year which tells you a lot about where we are right now. We have some clear things to work on now going into 2023, but I think when we reflect, we can take a lot of positives from the tournament, especially with such a young group that’s coming together really well and I think the fact that we’re disappointed says a lot about the group as well.”

As always, Ireland’s supporters have added to the players’ experience. “We’ve had some fantastic support over here in Valencia but also from home in Ireland,” said Mullan. “So just on a personal note, we want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has continued to support us on our journey. Huge thanks have to go to Park Developments, Softco and Sport Ireland for their continued support as well.

“We have a big year coming up next year and we just want to continue to drive on and inspire the next generation of kids. Playing three major tournaments this year was a really tough ask after losing so many players to retirement but we’ve filled the gap exceptionally, and special mention to our staff and the commitment that they’ve shown in guiding us to be better,” she added.

At the award ceremony in Valencia Ireland picked up two trophies. Best Junior Player: Sarah Mcauley (IRL) and Hero Top Scorer: Katie Mullan (IRL).

, ,

Shootout heartbreak for Ireland in Nations Cup semi-final

Sean Dancer’s Ireland lost by the finest of margins in a classic against India in their semi-final of the Women’s FIH Hockey Nations Cup. After 60 minutes of nail-biting drama, it took a penalty shootout to separate the two sides and decide who would go into the gold medal match against Spain.

The girls in green defended for much of the match but were impressive in attack, causing the Indian defence plenty of problems. Charlotte Beggs and Sarah Hawkshaw marshalled the midfield well, with Hannah McLoughlin and Sarah McAuley creative out of defence. Indeed, it was underdogs Ireland who went in front through a sublime Naomi Carroll shot in the closing stages of the first quarter. Captain Katie Mullan had made a gut-busting run down the right sideline before a diving pass found Carroll, who used her first touch to lift the ball over her defender’s stick. She then dribbled the ball in the air into the attacking circle and hit sweetly off her right foot in between the goalkeeper’s legs to put Ireland a goal in front.

India won 12 penalty corners in the match, four of them in the first half, but Liz Murphy was in electric form between the posts and kept the Indian threat at bay. In fact, it was Ireland who looked like they had scored the second goal of the match when Christina Hamill found Siofra O’Brien, who crossed on the reverse for Carroll. The ball found its way into the goal off a combination of Carroll and her defender, but India referred and the video umpire adjudged that O’Brien had used the back of her stick and so the goal was disallowed.

It was a reprieve for India who went in at half-time looking dejected, unsure of how they would unlock the Ireland defence.

As they so often do, Ireland began the second half brightly – a reverse shot from Mullan that was touched over by Carroll the best chance of the quarter for the girls in green. But then India piled on sustained pressure, winning no less than seven corners in the third quarter, and the pressure finally told. The 11th Indian attacking penalty corner was one too many for the Irish defence as Udita swept a bobbly shot into the bottom left corner, and it was India who went in at the last break the happier of the two sides.

Both teams showed supreme fitness in the final quarter as the tempo of the game never let up. India will feel they had the chances to put Ireland away as they were handed some golden opportunities by Ireland defenders, but Murphy’s incredible performance continued as she pulled off save after save to keep the scores level.

With just a minute left in the game, India reviewed for a penalty corner, and it was awarded by the video referee. Once again, it was Mullan in the big moment, and she ran down the shot, getting a touch on the swept shot to deflect onto an Indian foot.

Neither team was willing to give away too much in that final minute, and the game went to a penalty shootout. The last time these teams met in a shootout was the 2018 World Cup when Ireland won 3-1 to go into the semi-final of that competition. But India goalkeeper, Savita, has a reputation in shootouts that will only grow after today.

Both keepers made saves, Savita impressively saving a stroke when she had fouled Ellen Curran during her shuttle, but it came down to the last shuttle with India 2-1 in front and Katie Mullan had the chance to make the scores level. Savita, though, stood tall as Mullan dummied a shot, and when the Ireland captain shot wide on her reverse, it was ecstasy for India and heartbreak for Ireland.

Ireland goalkeeper Liz Murphy said her team can still improve in their last match: “I think we can take a lot of positives from today, we played really, really well. But I think we do have an extra 10 percent defensively. We gave away too many corners and let India come back into the game. We’re not going to do that tomorrow and I think we’ll come out even stronger tomorrow,” she said.

Head coach Sean Dancer said his team executed their plans: “India are a very attacking team, so we wanted to control the way that they attacked and we did that really well. We probably gave away too many penalty corners,” he admitted, “but we did well for most of it. And then we wanted to bring out our speed and skill which you saw with the goal that we scored and the goal we had disallowed,” he added.

“Standout performance for us today was Lizzy Murphy in goal,” said Dancer. “Even though we conceded a lot of penalty corners, she saved almost all of them.”

It’s been a growing experience for this young squad. “We have done a lot of good things over the tournament and have improved game on game,” said a proud Dancer. “So today was a very good performance that’s been building for the past couple of days. We hope that we can finish off tomorrow against Japan. There is a bronze medal on the line and that’s something that we need to be good at – finishing off tournaments. I’m really happy with how the girls have improved and I hope we can keep improving tomorrow,” he finished.

Ireland play their final match at 12.30 pm tomorrow (Saturday) against Japan in the bronze medal match.

, ,

Hawkshaw and Mullan on the mark to send Ireland into Nations Cup semi-final

Ireland kept their cool in the final moments of their last pool match of the Women’s FIH Hockey Nations Cup in Valencia this morning to book their spot in the semi-final on Friday. Second-half goals from Sarah Hawkshaw and Katie Mullan put Ireland two goals in front, but two goals in the last five minutes for Korea gave Ireland fans nerves going into the dying minutes.

Ireland had controlled the game from the pushback, with Korea’s main threat being their counterattack. The girls in green were skilful up front, winning penalty corners with regularity. They went through their routine but with limited effectiveness, Korea defending an array of strikes, drag flicks and deflections in the seven Ireland corners won in the first half.

Korea struggled to get the ball out of defence in the second half as Ireland hunted in the press, winning plenty of ball in the attacking third. Katie Mullan led the charge up front while Michelle Carey and Sarah Torrans made good headway wide on the right of the pitch, the final pass just eluding the Irish. Defensive Irish players, too, began to press forward with Hannah McLoughlin and Ellen Curran making probing runs out of the defending line and creating problems for Korea.

It took nine penalty corners for Ireland to get on the scoreboard. Roisin Upton drag-flicked the initial shot that was saved by goalkeeper Lee; then Ellen Curran saw her shot smothered and kicked up towards Sarah Hawkshaw on the post who tracked it and batted it goalward to put Ireland in front. Sean Dancer’s charges continued to pile on the pressure in the last quarter and a mistake from Lee in goal, who had done so much up to that point to keep her team in the tie, led to her team conceding their second.
A loose ball made it through to the ‘keeper who cleared straight into the path of the oncoming player of the match, Katie Mullan. Lee looked to correct her mistake by coming at Mullan who spotted her chance, sliding the ball past the keeper on her near post.

Korea continued to look for goals, though, and they found some joy late on when they won a penalty corner with four minutes left on the clock. Their drag flick found the leg of Elena Tice on the line, which led to a penalty stroke. Hyejin Cho sent it high to the left to give her team a glimmer of hope. Korea duly went straight back down the pitch after the Ireland pass back to win another corner and this time Sujin An’s drag flick found the arm of Roisin Upton – the deflection sending it into the Ireland goal with two minutes on the clock and the scores level.

If there were nerves within the Ireland team, however, they were not evident as they expertly ran down the clock, Hannah McLoughlin drawing foul after foul and winning multiple frees to smother any chance of a third and winning goal for Korea – the game-finishing two goals apiece.

The draw puts Ireland into second place in Pool A which means they face the winners of Pool B in the second semi-final on Friday at 2.45 pm. If Ireland can win that match, they go into the final on Saturday at 2.45 pm. The winner of that match wins a spot in the 2023 FIH Pro League.

Head Coach Sean Dancer felt it was the best he’s seen this group play. “The performance overall was extremely pleasing,” he smiled. “It was actually one of the best games I’ve seen this team play – the way that we held onto the ball and controlled the game. It’s obviously very disappointing that it ended 2-2 and we certainly need to look at that last five minutes to make sure we control the game a bit better. We had more than enough opportunities in penalty corner attack to put them away but, overall, I’m really pleased.”

Ireland now looks ahead to Friday. “The opponents in the semi-final will probably be India. They’ll be a really tough opponent but it’s also a great opportunity. What was particularly pleasing today is that, while the senior players played well, the younger players really stepped up and at stages, they took their chances and they hurt Korea.”

Player of the match Katie Mullan says it is a job done, despite drawing a match they feel they should have won. “We wanted to be in the semi-final come the end of the week. We are a wee bit disappointed to concede two goals at the end and leave it at a draw because I think we dominated the game and we had the better chances,” she admits. “Korea were clinical in big moments and in penalty corners and we just need to learn from those moments going into the semi-final,” she added.

, ,

Ireland v South Africa Spar Indoor Test Series

In Cape Town, Ireland’s indoor women’s hockey team will face the South African women’s team in a six-match SPAR series. In recent years, the two sides have developed a fantastic rivalry, having played 11 tests over two test series, including the series in Dublin in January.

Ireland defeated South Africa in Dublin before losing the series, and they have chosen a squad with the goal of growing on the indoor courts. The six games are as follows;

  • Ireland v South Africa – 15:00 – 15nd December 
  • Ireland v South Africa – 17:00 – 16th December 
  • Ireland v South Africa – 17:00 – 17th December 
  • Ireland v South Africa – 08:00 – 18th December 
  • Ireland v South Africa – 17:00 – 19th December 
  • Ireland v South Africa – 17:00 – 20th December 

Squad List for Spar Indoor test series;

No. Name Caps
1 Emma BUCKLEY (GK) 13
2 Millie REGAN (GK) 18
3 Sarah PATTON 18
4 Laura GRAHAM 7
5 Mikayla POWER 12
6 Orla MACKEN (C) 9
7 Chloe BROWN 17
8 Hannah KELLY 9
9 Orla FOX 24
10 Orla PATTON (C) 23
13 Lily LLOYD 12
14 Amy BENSON 23
, ,

Ireland bounce back with commanding win in Nations Cup

Ireland women turned disappointment to delight as they held out for a 2-1 victory against Italy in their second pool match in the Women’s FIH Hockey Nations Cup in Valencia this morning. Having suffered defeat to Spain in their opening match, a blistering third quarter of sustained pressure paid dividends for Sean Dancer’s charges today with goals from Naomi Carroll and Katie Mullan putting the girls in green two goals to the good after a cagey first half.

Ireland had much of the play in the opening stages but the lack of goalscoring opportunities was evident as Italy seemed happy to defend and feed off scraps when turning over in the press. After the half-time break, though, Ireland’s speed and fitness came to the fore and Roisin Upton, who won her 100th cap today, was particularly effective when coming out of defence.

Indeed, the link between Upton and player of the match Katie Mullan was twice the creative element Ireland required; first in the 35th minute when Upton beat a player and popped a pass to Mullan who posted up to the top of the circle. Mullan then turned and hit to the back post off her right foot where Naomi Carroll was perfectly positioned to tap in through the goalkeeper’s legs.

Ireland seemed to play with renewed energy after the opening goal and were rewarded for their sustained pressure when Upton again linked up with Mullan, this time from a long pass but again with Mullan making a run back to receive. She juggled between two defenders and showed great strength to hold them off as she lifted over the ‘keeper for a finish she won’t soon forget.
It was a strong Ireland performance that was not dulled by an attacking finish from the Italians, who pushed for a result in the last quarter and scored a consolation goal in the final minute. They were awarded a penalty corner, which Ireland reviewed, but it stood, and the Italian’s executed a well-drilled corner deflection to make it a one-goal game. It was too little, too late, however, and few would argue it was a deserved Ireland victory in the end.

There were too many excellent performers to name them all, but coach Sean Dancer had high praise for Upton on her 100th appearance. “Roisin is one of our key players and I’m so pleased for her. What a wonderful milestone and I hope she has a lot more. Katie Mullan was a really strong performer in the centre of the field and she held onto the ball well and controlled things, but the whole team did their job and that’s probably the key thing, everybody is doing their role,” he said.

He was particularly happy with the way that Ireland took their chances. “We scored two field goals today which is something we have worked hard at. The game was very close. The first half was about trying to control, taking away a few of their strengths and their skills and we did that very well in the first half. That set us up for the second half,” he said. “You’re always happy when you win, that’s what our job is about, high performance is all about getting results. The important thing for us is that it keeps us moving forward in the tournament. We’re now on three points and it gives us a good opportunity against Korea to get a result and then into the semi-finals,” he added.

Captain and player of the match Katie Mullan was, understandably, proud of her team. “It’s such a good team performance from us,” she declared. “We had such great control for the majority of the game. We dominated, we were clinical, and huge credit to the girls – we had a tough game yesterday and we came away and learned a few really valuable lessons last night, and I think you’ve seen them put into practice today.”

Upton was at the centre of a lot of what Ireland did well today, but she says the team improved on a few things, and that was what made the difference today. “We really wanted to bounce back after yesterday. We thought we performed well, we just needed to get a good result today to set us up for a final game against Korea. We didn’t make too many changes, we just talked about how we could do things a little bit better.”

The defender spoke about her own impact on the game. “My own role today was, basically, myself and the other centre back just looking to manipulate the centre forward and see if we could create an overload and I had the opportunity to do that sometimes from the middle, and then we executed well up front,” she added.

Goalscorer Naomi Carroll was all smiles after her team’s win. “I think we created a lot of opportunities in the first half and we were disappointed not to put them away, so we were delighted to take our first one in the second half and then to keep stepping up and keep pushing,” she said, but Carroll knows the job is not yet done. “We know Korea are a very fast team, they’ve very quick hands, and we know that this is going to be a very tough game on Thursday so we’re going to take tomorrow, regroup and take a look at the video today and get going again. Really excited for our third match.”

Ireland play Korea in their final group game on Wednesday at 9.45 am. A win would secure them a semi-final spot on Friday which would see them play either first or second in Pool B, depending on the results of the other group matches.

, ,

Ireland left chasing semi-final berth after opening loss

Ireland women suffered a 2-0 loss to favourites Spain in their opening match of the Women’s FIH Hockey Nations Cup this afternoon. Sean Dancer’s side were chasing the game almost from the outset as Spain started the game in electric fashion, winning a penalty corner inside two minutes and slotting home a slick drag flick past Elizabeth Murphy in goal.

Ireland applied good pressure throughout the match, forcing Spain to play a lot inside their own half and winning possession with regularity. It was the final pass that was missing for the girls in green which is an element they will hope to rectify moving forward in the tournament.

After that opening shock, Ireland grew into the match and forward Zara Malseed had a good chance to bring her side level when Ireland won the ball in the press in the sixth minute, but her powerful shot went wide. And when they won a penalty corner with four seconds left on the clock in the first quarter, Irish supporters were up on their feet. Spain opted not to send out a flyer and an Ireland runner was judged to have obstructed in the circle, and so the chance was squandered as a free out was awarded to Spain.

The second quarter went much the way of the first, with Spain winning an early penalty corner which Ireland dealt with well on this occasion. Then Malseed again had a chance to level things up when she shot on the reverse and drew a save by the Spanish keeper.

Lizzy Murphy in goal made some important interventions, showing confidence while deputising for Ireland’s usual first-choice keeper, Ayeisha McFerran. Another penalty corner for Spain was shot wide late on in the quarter and Ireland went on a quick break, showing how dangerous they are on the counter but late Ireland pressure didn’t result in an outcome and the score remained 1-0 to Spain at half-time.

The host nation began the second half just how they began the first, winning a penalty corner and scoring with devastating precision. A sweep from the left of the circle was deflected on the backhand into the roof of the net, showing why Spain look to win corners whenever they are in the opposition’s circle, and that second goal knocked the stuffing out of Ireland.

Dancer’s charges kept pushing, though, with Christina Hamill and Sarah Hawkshaw, in particular, making inroads, and a well-won corner in the 40th minute was the reward. Roisin Upton dragged low to the left, but Spain saved well. Ireland had much of the possession and maintained the pressure on Spain, who marked and defended tightly, absorbing everything the green machine threw at them.

In the final quarter, Spain played the sidelines well and opened Ireland up as they tried to push for goals, Roisin Upton foraying forward with her characteristic, mazy runs. With two goals in front, though, Spain were able to sit deep when defending and gave Ireland no space to attack into as large amounts of possession came to nothing for the girls in green.

Coach Sean Dancer is not too worried about the position Ireland now find themselves in. He said: “I was pleased with the overall performance today. It’s been a big learning curve for a lot of these girls and it started with the World Cup (in the summer). After the World Cup we reviewed and we really worked hard on a few areas so it was great to see those areas come through today. We want to play with speed, tempo, we want to use the skills that we have and it was great to that working well today.

“We want to be in the semi-final when it gets to that stage so tomorrow is really important for us. We played some good hockey today, at stages we controlled the game well, and that’s what we need to take into tomorrow’s performance.” With that being said, he felt that with a bit more cutting edge, it could have been a different result. “Losing 2-0 is disappointing, especially with the flow of the game. Both teams had some good opportunities and to Spain’s credit they took their two penalty corners quite well – difficult to stop – so we’re disappointed with the result.”

Ireland captain Katie Mullan is excited about how much her team still has to give in this tournament. “It was a tough first game, I think we dominated at times, we had some really good opportunities and unfortunately, we just weren’t clinical enough. I think Spain really took their opportunities when they had them. They were efficient off their penalty corner attack and there’s a few things now for us to go away and learn from and prepare for tomorrow’s game, but we’re really excited. We’re playing some nice hockey and all eyes are on tomorrow now.”

Ireland play their second Pool A match tomorrow (Monday) at 9.45am against Italy and Dancer says playing one of the top teams in Spain today, sets them up well for the remaining matches. “Spain and India are the two highest-ranked teams here; both are going to be very hard to beat. I think it helps us for tomorrow’s game that we played well against Spain. Italy are a different opponent but with the Italian and Argentinian influence, there are similar plays to what Spain did today, so we’re looking forward to the opportunity to take a step up again tomorrow and keep doing the things we did well today,” he added.

Today’s loss means Ireland, most likely, need to win their remaining two pool matches against Italy and Korea to finish in the top two of their group and into the semi-final matches later this week. The team that wins the final of the Inaugural FIH Hockey Nations Cup, wins a spot in the 2023 FIH Pro League.

,

Ireland miss golden opportunity in European Indoor Championship III

Ireland men’s indoor hockey team went into their final match against Italy with the chance to win the European Indoor Championship III in Athienou, Cyprus over the weekend, but it wasn’t to be as Brinsley Powell’s men couldn’t unlock the Italian defence.

Former outdoor international, John Jackson, led the team who began brightly on day one with two wins. It was Cyprus first up for the boys in green on Friday and with four goals from Ross Canning, three for John Jackson, two each for Jody Hosking and Ollie Kidd and one each for Dave Howard and Jack Haycock, Ireland cantered to a 15-1 win. The second game of the day saw Ireland defeat Serbia by 12 goals to two with Canning (3), Jackson (3), Walker (3), Howard (2) and Kidd (1) all on the mark.

Saturday brought two more games, the first against Denmark which was to be Ireland’s first real test. Canning scored twice in a losing battle as Ireland’s defence couldn’t keep out the Danish attack who scored six times to hand Ireland their first loss.

Chasing a positive goal difference, Ireland turned on the after-burners against Greece in their second game of Saturday, scoring no less than 34 times in a punishing outing for the Greeks. Kidd top-scored with eight, while Walker (7), Jackson (5), Howard (5), Hosking (4) and Canning (3) all scored multiples. Richard Couse and Ben O’Grady scored their first goals of the tournament to make it 34 goals to nil.

It was all to play for on the final day and Italy were Ireland’s opponent. After their drubbing of Greece on Saturday, an Ireland victory would see them leapfrog both Italy and Denmark to win the tournament on goal difference with all three sitting on 12 points and one loss each. Italy were too good, though, and Ireland only managed to score once through captain Jackson, while Italy were clinical in front of goal, putting six past Stephen O’Keeffe in goal.

O’Keeffe had reason to celebrate, though, as he came away with the Goalkeeper of the Tournament accolade along with his team’s bronze medal.
It was a disappointing finish for Ireland, but not a costly one as the format of Indoor European competitions will change next year with an A Division of 10 teams, and two equal B Divisions that will be based on seedings and geographic location.

Attention now turns to Ireland’s women’s indoor team who take on South Africa in a six-game series in Cape Town later this month.

 

European Indoor Championship III Results

Ireland 15 v 1 Cyprus John Jackson (3) Ross Canning (4) James Walker (2) Jody Hosking (2) Ollie Kidd (2) Dave Howard (1) Jack Haycock (1)

Ireland 12 v 2 Serbia Ross Canning (3) John Jackson (3) James Walker (3) Dave Howard (2) Ollie Kidd (1)

Ireland 2 v 6 Denmark Ross Canning (2)

Ireland 34 v 0 Greece Ollie Kidd (8) James Walker (7) John Jackson (5) Dave Howard (5) Jody Hosking (4) Ross Canning (3) Richard Couse (1) Ben O’Grady (1)

Ireland 1 v 6 Italy John Jackson (1)

, ,

Magnificent Ireland book historic Nations Cup Final berth

A flawless third quarter led by Ireland captain and player of the match Sean Murray brought Ireland to within 60 minutes of a maiden FIH Pro League berth as they beat Malaysia comfortably in the semi-final of the Nations Cup this morning.

A moment of magic in the 41st minute from Ben Walker was the catalyst for an incredible final third from the boys in green. Walker made a chance from nothing, dinking the ball over his defender’s stick before he spun and blasted an unsavable snapshot into the top right corner. Jeremy Duncan backed that goal up with two superb finishes as Ireland looked ice-cold in front of the goal in a must-win match.

The first half was littered with classy skills going forward for both teams as well as last-ditch tackles that were punished with regular cards. The teams had clearly done their homework, as the two penalty corner attacks looked somewhat toothless and plenty of opportunities were shot wide, although Lee Cole did save well on the line for the second Malaysia penalty corner – making the most of his cricketing background to help the ball around the corner and out of play.

The game opened up for Ireland as the first quarter wore on, with a clear game plan to suck Malaysia into the pockets in midfield, before making use of the space on the, paying dividends. Malaysia altered tactics at the break and had their most commanding period of the game in the second quarter, drawing plenty of unforced errors from Ireland. Malaysia had chances but will be left to rue errors in the circle as they mistrapped the ball in front of the goal, as well as running the ball over the end line with almost criminal regularity.

The game remained scoreless at half-time with the commentators noting that it was a match-up of Malaysia’s skills versus the organisation of Ireland; but it was the skills of Walker that brought out the creativity in his team as Ireland bossed the game from that point on.

It was an entertaining match to watch if you were an Irish supporter with plenty of silky skills and breath-taking pinpoint passes from the boys in green; no skills more impressive than the first finish from Jeremy Duncan just two minutes after Ireland had scored their first. Ireland had a three-on-four in the circle, but incredibly Duncan found himself free in front of the goal with the ball on the end of his stick. His quick release with a flick of the wrists was too fast for the ‘keeper as he found the right inside post to double the lead.

Duncan’s second, eight minutes from time, all but assured his side of their spot in the final. Conor Empey broke down the right and beat his defender on the inside before fluffing a pass going into the circle. He somehow managed to win it back and keep his composure to get his eyes up and find Duncan who controlled and shot home off the left post.

Malaysia had a good period with five minutes to go, but it was too little, too late, as their penalty corners again came to nothing and Ireland kept a sheet clean.

Player of the match Sean Murray was elated at the final whistle. “Fantastic, it’s just fantastic,” he said. “It’s nice to be player of the match but to be fair to the guys up front, they were awesome today; they took their chances. It’s just a fantastic feeling to go into tomorrow with a great opportunity to qualify for the Pro League.”

POTCHEFSTROOM – FIH Hockey Men’s Nations Cup South Africa 2022
15 Ireland v Malaysia (Semi-Final)
Picture: Coach TUMILTY Mark celebrates the win.
WORLDSPORTPICS COPYRIGHT FRANK UIJLENBROEK

Head Coach Mark Tumilty was full of praise for his team’s complete performance. “I am delighted with the result today and the performance. It was excellent to see us score three goals from open play. Our corners have been a key part earlier in the tournament but today in the semi-final, I’m thrilled with our finishing from open play,” he said.

Speaking about the team’s tactics, he said: “I think we got it spot on today and a lot of credit needs to go to our new assistant Neville Rothman for how he helped set the team up going into that game. Also, credit to the players with how they implemented what was asked of them. Our defensive game was very good and when we got the opportunity to attack, we delivered that, especially in the second half.”

There is very little time for his team to rest, with the final tomorrow at 1.15 pm, but Tumilty will be treating it like any other match. “Preparing for tomorrow it’s about keeping the routine the same,” he insisted. “There are massive implications for hockey in Ireland if we could get to the FIH Pro League, but our focus is on a performance again – if we can produce a performance, the result hopefully will look after itself.”

Ben Walker’s finish is one that will live long in Irish hockey memory, but Tumilty knew he had it in him. “Benny is the one forward in the country that has a finish like that in him. He may miss easier chances at times but he definitely has that piece of magic that he showed today at a very important stage in the game.”

Speaking about other standout players, the head coach found it difficult to pick out just a couple. “Shane (O’Donoghue) and Ben (Walker) have been excellent. They have both played some of their best hockey in a green shirt in this tournament, especially Sean, but I think Shane moving into the back four has made that much more solid. But I also think it’s worth mentioning the other defenders. The six defenders and two keepers deserve a lot of credit because they give us such a good foundation to defend with also to build from an attacking point of view.”

He finished by saying: “Overall it was a good day, and hopefully tomorrow can be a better one.”

It will be one of Ireland’s best if the Green Machine can go to the well again and summon the strength and inspiration to march on and win the final of the historic Inaugural Men’s Hockey Nation’s Cup and take the coveted spot in the 2023 FIH Pro League.

They play the host country, South Africa, on December 4th at 1:15 pm. Watch live on the https://watch.hockey/ app.