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Six debutants in Irish men’s team for Euros in Poland

A new era for the Irish men’s team formally gets underway in two weeks as Mark Tumilty’s side take on the EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno, Poland from August 15 to 21.

The eight-team competition will be their first capped matches since they missed out on the Tokyo Olympic Games in November 2019 in Vancouver.

Since then, Tumilty has used the past year to regenerate the panel and he brings with him six uncapped players in his central panel of 18 along with two more in the travelling reserves.

The competition is an important one with a top-five finish out of eight offering a ticket to October’s World Cup qualifiers in Wales. A run to the title, meanwhile, would bring vital ranking points as the Road to Paris 2024 comes into view as the Irish men look to make it back to the Olympic stage following their run to Rio in 2016.

“There were many difficult decisions to make when selecting the squad as the enlarged squad had worked extremely hard over the last 12 months,” coach Tumilty explained of the line-up.

“I feel the squad selected has a good balance of experience and youth. The squad, over recent camps against Scotland and GB, is starting to implement our playing style and it has been very pleasing that we have scored a significant number of goals. We will look to build on this as we go through the tournament.

“I look forward to the EuroHockey Championship II. We understand the importance of this tournament in securing a World Cup qualifying place. This tournament is the first step on the pathway to getting the Senior Men back competing in the major competitions on a consistent basis.  We need to start the tournament well and our focus is on the opening game against Poland.”

Four of the new faces hail from Lisnagarvey with Mark McNellis, Jonny Lynch and Ben Nelson included along with goalkeeper James Milliken who was an unused substitute at the 2019 Olympic qualifiers.

Ian Stewart will become the first current Corinthian player to line out for Ireland since Brian Doherty a decade ago and the seventh in total from the Whitechurch club.

Ex-Banbridge man and Irish Under-21 captain Kyle Marshall, meanwhile, is back in green following a spell in the Great Britain development panel, linking up again with his former club coach at Bann. He will play his club hockey with emerging London side Old Georgians in the upcoming season.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, record goalscorer Shane O’Donoghue made a welcome return to the line-up for July’s camp in Glasgow, scoring five times in two games.

Sean Murray, 24, will captain the side and he is among a number of players who lined out in the Belgian league last season, reaching the top eight playoffs with KHC Leuven – the others are goalkeeper Jamie Carr and Luke Madeley.

Lee Cole, Michael Robson, Daragh Walsh, Jeremy Duncan, Ben Walker, Johnny McKee and Tim Cross bring the relative experience to the table while Peter McKibbin will add to the single cap he picked up in 2019.

For the tournament, Tumilty is able to bring two travelling reserves – Cork C of I’s Kevin O’Dea and YMCA’s Sam Hyland.

It follows a productive summer with Ireland winning two separate uncapped series against Scotland and also a trip to Bisham Abbey, putting it up to the Great Britain Olympic team ahead of their departure to Tokyo.

Ian Stewart in action for Ireland against Scotland in an uncapped match, June 2021, Jordanstown

In Poland, Ireland will start off with a date against the hosts – ranked 26th in the world – on Sunday, August 15. They can potentially field former Railway Union and Leinster underage player Mateusz Nowakowski amid a similarly fresh-faced side.

Game two is a date against Italy (ranked 23rd) before concluding the group stages against Croatia, a first meeting between the two countries.

A top two finish will earn a World Cup qualifier ticket and a place in the semi-finals; miss out on those spots and the side will still have a chance to contest for the fifth ticket on offer in the classification matches.

Austria (20th), Switzerland (34th), Ukraine (29th) and Scotland (19th) wait in the wings on the other side of the draw.

Ireland will conclude their preparations with four matches this week against a GB elite development panel. These games take on place on Wednesday, August 4 (7pm) and Thursday, August 5 (7pm) featuring members of the wider panel while the Euro panel will play the same opponents on Saturday, August 7 (3pm) and Sunday, August 8 (11am). This series will be played at Lisnagarvey’s Comber Road venue.

Men’s EuroHockey Championship II (August 15-21, 2021)

Ireland squad (club/caps)
Jamie Carr (GK, KHC Leuven, 36)
James Milliken (GK, Lisnagarvey, 0)
Lee Cole (Monkstown, 89)
Kyle Marshall (Old Georgians, 0)
Tim Cross (Annadale, 8)
Mark McNellis (Lisnagarvey, 0)
Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey, 1)
Luke Madeley (KHC Leuven, 21)
Sean Murray (captain, KHC Leuven, 78)
Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne, 190)
Michael Robson (Annadale, 113)
Jonny Lynch (Lisnagarvey, 0)
Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers, 51)
Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown, 56)
Ben Walker (Three Rock Rovers, 35)
Ben Nelson (Lisnagarvey, 0)
Ian Stewart (Corinthian, 0)
Johnny McKee (Banbridge, 43)

Travelling reserves: Kevin O’Dea (Cork C of I, 0), Sam Hyland (YMCA, 0)

Coach: Mark Tumilty
Assistant coach: Jason Klinkradt
Manager: Neil Irwin
Physiotherapist: Natalie Turner
Physical Trainer: Eoin Cunniffe
Video technician: Ross Willis

Pool A fixture schedule (all in Gniezno, Poland – times Irish)
Sunday, August 15: Ireland v Poland, 7pm
Tuesday, August 17: Ireland v Italy, 4.45pm
Wednesday, August 18: Ireland v Croatia, 4.45pm
Friday, August 20/Saturday, August 21 – classification matches

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Green Army bow out with heads held high in Tokyo

Women’s Olympics – Pool A
Ireland 0 Great Britain 2 (S Townsend, H Martin)

Ireland’s quarter-final hopes came to a formal end as they could not find the victory they needed to continue their involvement in the women’s Olympic hockey competition.

India’s 4-3 win over South Africa earlier in the day left a simple equation against the reigning champions – win or bust.

But, despite a performance packed with resilience and endeavour, Britain kept the Green Army at bay. Susannah Townsend swooped to score from their fifth penalty corner in the second quarter and Irish hopes of a major upset faded when Hannah Martin guided in Ellie Rayer’s exceptional cross a minute into the second half.

Ireland pushed on in the closing quarter, swapping out goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran – who impressed once again – for an extra outfielder for the closing stages. But GB defended resolutely to get the result which also assured their progression to the last eight.

For Ireland, it meant a fifth place finish in the group stages to their maiden Olympic campaign, outside the top four required to advance.

Despite the low-key end, it brought to a close what was a ground-breaking tournament, a first for Irish women’s hockey and, indeed, for women’s team sports at the Games.

It brought a first win last week on debut when South Africa were beaten 2-0, Róisín Upton etching her name into the record books as first Olympic goalscorer.

“It is raw emotion,” Hannah McLoughlin said in the immediate aftermath, looking back on the tournament. “Firstly not getting to the quarter-finals which I think we were more than capable of. Secondly, knowing this is probably a few of our players last games. It is not the send-off any of us wanted to give them.

“But we have broken the ceiling, coming to the Olympics and for those of us fortunate enough to keep going, we want to push on for Paris and then go for quarters and semis.

“Even before coming out here, getting on any plane, regardless of any result, we were bursting with pride for my friends, family and all the people I represent, the other 18 players here with me. The few words we did have after the match, although disappointment was quite a big thing, pride came up an awful lot.

“Although the result was not what we wanted, no one has any regrets about today – we gave it our all, it just wasn’t to be.”

Coach Sean Dancer concurred: “We are here on the field, trying to hold our head up high with what we have achieved and where we have got to. We will take a lot of lessons from the journey and experience. We are competing against the best in the world in the pinnacle of our event.

“For women’s sport and Irish hockey, it’s certainly something to be very proud to be part of. The girls have done all the hard work over the last four years, getting that silver medal and in a good position for this tournament. Very proud of all their performances.

“Those girls should be very proud of the performances they put in and what they have achieved. There will be a few tears and some celebrations over the next few weeks when they get a chance.”

A number of players will likely formally hang up their international sticks in the wake of the event but McLoughlin says they have laid the base for a new agenda and belief.

“The lucky ones of us who get to carry on are just going to use this as motivation to push on, train harder. We have proven we can compete with the best countries in the world. This is my first taste of that and I am going to take that forward, not play with any fear.

“The thing I took from the Olympic Village was how other people are so intrigued by us. We are out on the grass, not caring what we look like, having fun and others start to join in, saying ‘God, we just love the Irish’.

“It’s only this tournament I really notice there is no other team in this tournament or the world who I would want to be part of; one that’s as open, as fun, as accepting as this 19 individuals. The whole experience has been unbelievable.”

Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, S McCay, R Upton, L Tice, C Watkins, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, S Torrans
Subs: H McLoughlin, H Matthews, L Holden, Z Malseed, N Daly

Great Britain: M Hinch, L Unsworth, A Toman, S Jones, S Townsend, S Robertson, E Rayer, G Ansley, H Pearne-Webb, S McCallin, L Owsley
Subs: H Martin, I Petter, L Wilkinson, F Crackles, G Balsdon

Umpires: C de la Fuente (ARG), E Yamada (JPN)

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A win over Great Britain will bring Olympic quarter-final berth

** Ireland v Great Britain  will be broadcast as part of RTE2’s live Olympic coverage from 12.45pm on Saturday, July 31 – note this will be geo-blocked in Northern Ireland; if other sports are showing, coverage continues on the RTE Player

** For viewers in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, Discovery+ will broadcast every game from the Olympics live here: https://www.discoveryplus.co.uk/olympics/sport/field-hockey

** BBC1’s Red Button could potentially carry coverage of the tie, too.

The equation is clear; a win over Great Britain and Ireland can look forward to a first ever Olympic quarter-final in their maiden women’s competition.

That is the challenge following India’s dramatic 4-3 win over South Africa this morning, lifting them to six points with Ireland currently on three points with one game remaining of Pool A.

It marks another big test for Sean Dancer’s side after another rollercoaster week of tournament hockey, the highs of the opening day win over South Africa to the rough finish to Friday’s contest against India.

With a place in the last eight very much a possibility, Deirdre Duke says there is a simple motivation to turn things around quickly.

“That quarter final spot is still up for grabs, so we’re going to have to park [the India game] pretty quick and get ourselves up for a big one,” she said. “It is always a collective effort and we always rally together and we rally around each other. We go again.”

To achieve this latest goal would require another piece of history. Ireland have yet to beat GB in a capped international match although that stat is slightly skewed by the rare nature of fixtures between the sides.

The last meeting came in June 2012 as GB only exists as an international entity in Olympic cycles, reverting to England, Scotland and Wales for the likes of the European Championships and the World Cup.

As such, there are 14 of the English side Ireland faced at the Euros along with Welsh pair Sarah Jones and Leah Wilkinson and Scottish duo Sarah Robertson and Amy Costello.

Ireland did beat GB for the first time in March 2-1 but it was in an uncapped fixture with Roisin Upton scoring the winning goal, ultimately sharing the series with a win, draw and a loss each.

And they will hope to summon that spirit in this vital tie to extend their stay in Tokyo. For GB, barring a five-goal defeat in this tie, they will finish in third place in Pool A and a quarter-final date against Spain.

Ireland v Great Britain – head to head
Overall: 15 meetings
Ireland: 0 wins, 0 draws, 15 losses, goals scored 1, goals against 38
Last meeting: June 2012, Ireland 0 Great Britain 3; Ireland’s only goal came in the 2004 meeting between the sides in Auckland
GB Olympic record: 8th Olympic appearance; reigning champions from 2016; bronze in 2012 and 1992.
Current world ranking (as England): 5th

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India strike late to see Irish quarter hopes go down to the wire

Women’s Olympic Games – Pool A
Ireland 0 India 1 (Navneet Kaur)

Ireland’s quarter-final hopes will go down to the wire as Navneet Kaur’s 57th minute winning goal denied the Green Army what would have been a crucial point at the Oi Stadium.

The deflection from Rani Rampal’s reverse-stick cross finally broke the Irish defences as India eventually took advantage of their large volume of control on the game.

Sean Dancer’s side defended heroically with Ayeisha McFerran producing another slew of brilliant saves. But just as it looked like a vital draw was on the cards, India nicked their winner.

It means Ireland remain in fourth place on three points in the chase for the fourth quarter-final berth, just ahead of India on goal difference. India face bottom side South Africa while Ireland conclude their group against reigning champions Great Britain (12.45pm, Irish time).

The tie was initially delayed for an hour due to a torrential downpour which left the pitch flooded earlier in the day but the camp was in no mood to look to that as a mitigating factor.

“There’s no excuses for it,” said assistant coach Gareth Grundie. “We weren’t at it. They put us on the back foot early and we didn’t really get back into it.

TOKYO – Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Ireland v India (Pool A)
Photo: Ayeisha McFerran and LALREMSIAM.
COPYRIGHT WORLDSPORTPICS FRANK UIJLENBROEK

“Disappointing to concede with so little time left but, on the balance of play, we didn’t deserve it. We weren’t good enough today. Ayeisha was good; our penalty corner defence was good but you can’t go through 60 minutes, give away that much and expect to get a result. We have to accept that, pick ourselves up and go again tomorrow.”

Deirdre Duke – who played her 150th cap – concurred: “That was a game that we needed to win and we didn’t so that’s my overwhelming feeling. Quick turnaround tomorrow. Depending on other results now, that quarter final spot is still up for grabs, so we’re going to have to park this pretty quick and get ourselves up for a big one tomorrow.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team. We are going to have to regroup and take a look at ourselves individually but it is always a collective effort and we always rally together.”

It was a shaky start with Ireland penned back for long periods of the first quarter as the Indians – gunning for revenge for their 2018 World Cup quarter-final elimination – burst into life from the start.

Oustanding penalty corner running from the likes of Sarah Torrans and Katie Mullan charged down the majority of chances from the set piece. Navneet Kaur and Neha both tested Ayeisha McFerran’s pads from play while the Green Army’s big moment was a break-out which ended with Deirdre Duke – in her 150th cap – seeing her strike well blocked.

Quarter two saw Ireland grasp a measure of control, picking up a couple of corners and Anna O’Flanagan’s bullet of a shot was excellent padded away by Savita.

A sequence of five more India corners closed out the first half but with no tangible benefit on the scoreboard as McFerran and Róisín Upton batted away the chances.

And they carried that flow of corners into the second half. Navneet Kaur contrived to miss two huge chances, one from their 13th corner when she swept into the outer boarding of the goal, the next a deflection from Lalremsiami’s clever under the arm pass.

TOKYO – Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Ireland v India (Pool A)
Photo: Irish line up.
COPYRIGHT WORLDSPORTPICS FRANK UIJLENBROEK

As time wore on, with Nicci Daly getting more and more onto the ball, Ireland carved out more meaningful chances. Again, O’Flanagan’s rising shot was saved by Savita and, with five minutes to go, the pair showed down again, the goalkeeper again doing enough to palm out of reach of the rebounding Duke.

The game was becoming more and more open, though, and India profited from the extra space. Rani was found in the right corner and she worked it back to a nice angle to deliver the killer pass for Navneet to touch home the key touch.

Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, H McLoughlin, R Upton, L Tice, C Watkins, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, S Torrans
Subs: S McCay, H Matthews, L Holden, N Carroll, N Daly

India: Savita, Navjot Kaur, G Kaur, D G Ekka, Monika, Nisha, V Katariya, Udita, Navneet Kaur, Rani, Neha
Subs: S Devi, N Pradhan, Lalremsiami, S Pukhrambam, S Tete

Umpires: A Rostron (RSA), A Neumann (AUS)

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Ireland face old rivals India in big Olympic showdown

** Ireland v India will be broadcast as part of RTE2’s live Olympic coverage from 3.45am on Friday, July 30 – note this will be geo-blocked in Northern Ireland; if other sports are showing, coverage continues on the RTE Player
** For viewers in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, Discovery+ will broadcast every game from the Olympics live here: https://www.discoveryplus.co.uk/olympics/sport/field-hockey

Women’s Olympic Games – Pool A
Ireland v India, 3.45am (Irish time)
Irish coach Sean Dancer says the Green Army’s Olympic quarter-final hopes were always likely to come down to the ties with India and Great Britain as they look forward to two games in two days at the Oi Stadium.

First on the agenda is a Friday date with India, ranked one place below Ireland in tenth in the Tokyo midday heat (11.45am locally), as part of their ongoing rivalry.

An Irish win would all but assure progression to the knock-out stages but the Indian “Eves” have been on a steady rise of late and will be gunning for revenge after two narrow losses at the 2018 World Cup.

Back then, Anna O’Flanagan scored a single goal in a 1-0 group stage win while the quarter-final there ended in a shoot-out success for Ireland after a scoreless 60 minutes.

Ireland’s 2-0 opening day win over South Africa has been followed up by defeats to the world number one and two sides, the Netherlands and Germany. The latter, though, saw a hugely encouraging performance and Dancer says carrying the same approach from that tie will serve them well.

“Temperatures were very high being in the middle of the day so it was always going to be a hard task,” Dancer reflected on that tie.

“What I am really pleased about is we kept fighting and, at stages, we stressed and hurt Germany which is a good sign.

“We believe in our ability to play good hockey which is something I try to reinforce. Against Holland, maybe we didn’t back ourselves so that was the message against Germany. Have a real go; if you do that, opportunities certainly open up, especially in the last quarter.”

As for the India proposition, it will be a new challenge compared to two highly-structured European sides. They have yet to register a point from their three games but are the only side to score against the Dutch thus far while they rattled the cage of the goal twice against Germany in a 2-0 defeat.

“It’s just a different style of play. India have strong elimination skills, the ability to crash the ball [direct] is something they are well known for. Understanding their structure but also willing to front up well and I think we match up nicely against them. We will try and get on the front foot and punish them any way we can.

“It was positive to get points in that first game; we knew the Dutch and German games would be difficult and probably take care of themselves. I suppose the hard work starts now – we always knew India and GB would be where the tournament gets really interesting and we have to step up; that is the main challenge.”

And he goes into it with a squad in reasonably fresh state despite three games in five days, using the new rules to freshen up the line-up as much as possible.

“It’s a really interesting situation with player 17 and 18 allowed to come in; they are also now staying in the village with us which wasn’t the original setup.

“It gives us more flexibility to have them on the same page. When they were outside the village, it was an extra layer of organisation to sort out.

“Our last two games were at 10.30am and then at 12pm, smack in the middle of the day. The heat is certainly draining people so my thought is to rest a few players when we can, put the workload over the whole squad.

“I’m confident with the 18 players. Michelle [Carey] and Zara [Malseed] both got runs and I think that’s good for the whole squad. It allows them get into a tournament where they wouldn’t usually be able to play.”

Ireland v India – head to head
Overall: 26 meetings
Ireland: 14 wins, 5 draws, 7 losses; goals for 40, goals against 26
Most recent meeting: February 2019: Ireland 0 India 3; that was India’s first win in seven meetings; they have 14 players from that panel in Tokyo; Ireland have 10
Last Irish win: July 2018, 1-0 (Anna O’Flanagan), World Cup, Lee Valley

India Olympic record: 3rd Olympic appearance – 4th in 1980 when many top nations boycotted; 12th in 2016

Current world ranking: 10th

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Big Irish comeback just held at bay by Germany

Women’s Olympic Games
Ireland 2 (L Tice, H McLoughlin) Germany 4 (L Altenburg 2, C Pieper, F Hauke)

Ireland produced a big second half comeback but were just held at bay by Germany, setting up a showdown on Friday with India where a victory would likely bring a quarter-final spot.

In a match packed full of incident, Germany – recently installed at second in the world – led 3-0 early in the second courtesy of a double from Lisa Altenburg and one from Cecile Pieper.

But two corner strikes from Lena Tice and Hannah McLoughlin had the Green Army right back in the mix going into the closing stages before a contentious Francisca Hauke goal settled the tie.

“Games against Germany are always quite physical and they’re quite fun too, so I think we enjoyed that game,” Chloe Watkins reflected.

“I think 4-2 is probably not really a fair reflection, we probably deserved a point if I’m honest. One or two things didn’t go our way but I think we played really well, we came up to it, they’re world number 3 and I think it was a really good battle, we matched them in a lot of areas.”

“We could have rolled over in the fourth quarter and let them come in but we didn’t. We fought hard and we knew goal difference is really important. They were really good goals, really well worked and it just showed our fighting spirit to give us confidence going into the next game.”

Germany went in front in the 10th minute in brilliant fashion. Anne Schröder wriggled out of danger and then lifted a long ball into the path of Lisa Altenburg about 40 metres from goal with open space to attack. She threw it out onto her backhand and shot early by the out-stretched boot of Ayeisha McFerran.

The Green Army responded well, drawing a couple of penalty corners, the latter of which wreaked havoc when Róisín Upton’s drag-flick half-saved by Julia Sonntag; Hannah Matthews’ batted it back into the danger zone but the German defence rallied well.

The lead was double in the 20th minute when Kira Horn cracked in an inviting cross which Cecile Pieper got in front of her marker and applied a deft finish.

It remained that way into the second half which opened with an exchange of cards, Amelie Wortmann first to depart on a green, Anna O’Flanagan following her for a harsh 10-minute yellow when she was deemed to have gone to ground dangerously.

Germany initially capitalised from the player advantage, earning a stroke from a video review when McLoughlin’s foot was deemed to have stopped the ball en route to goal.

Charlotte Stapenhorst was the only German player to call for the review, her team mates actively telling her not to bother but it proved a wise decision in the end. Altenburg converted the stroke.

Ireland rallied, though, and were buoyed when Tice got them on the board from a penalty corner sweep with 18 minutes to go. It set up a rousing closing quarter in which Sarah Hawkshaw’s mazy run, a Zara Malseed snap-shot and a series of penalty corners came.

And Hannah McLoughlin arrowed in her first international goal from an accurate corner sweep, pegging it back to 3-2 with 10 minutes still to play.

The result was ultimately settled, though, when Pieper and Altenburg combined to get the ball into the path of Franzisca Hauke who flicked home. Ireland called for video where it looked like McFerran was impeded but the decision again went against the Green Army and the goal stood.

There was still time for Malseed to have a goal disallowed for back stick in the dying moments. Nonetheless, there was plenty to take from the tie for Ireland against the European silver medalists to carry into the key tie with India.

Ireland sit fourth in the group with two games to go with four teams advancing to the quarter-finals. India fell 4-1 to Great Britain to leave them with three losses on their record and targeting the Irish game as one they need to win to keep their tournament hopes alive.

“India have strong elimination skills, the ability to crash the ball [direct] is something they are well known for,” is coach Sean Dancer’s assessment of that encounter. “Understanding their structure but also willing to front up well and I think we match up nicely against them. We will try and get on the front foot and punish them any way we can.

“We knew the Dutch and German games would be difficult and probably take care of themselves. I suppose the hard work starts now – we always knew India and GB would be where the tournament gets really interesting and we have to step up and is the main challenge.”

Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, H McLoughlin, R Upton, L Tice, C Watkins, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, Z Malseed
Subs: S McCay, H Matthews, L Holden, M Carey, N Daly

Germany: J Sonntag, K Horn, A Wortmann, S Oruz, A Schröder, L Altenburg, F Hauke, C Pieper, P Maertens, V Huse
Subs: C Stapenhorst, S Zimmerman, P Heinz, J Fleschutz, H Granitzki

Umpires: S Wilson (GBR), M Joubert (RSA)

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Germany await in game three for Green Army in Tokyo

** Ireland v Germany will be broadcast live on RTE2 from 4.15am on Wednesday, July 28 – note this will be geo-blocked in Northern Ireland
** For viewers in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, Discovery+ will broadcast every game from the Olympics live here: https://www.discoveryplus.co.uk/olympics/sport/field-hockey

Women’s Olympic Games
Pool A: Ireland v Germany, 4.15am (Irish time)

Game three in Tokyo and the Green Army can take a big step forward to a potential top four place in their pool if they can get something from their date with world number three side Germany at the Oi Stadium.

For Ireland, they will be looking to bounce back after their 4-0 defeat to the Netherlands after a strong defensive effort – typified by Ayeisha McFerran between the posts – meant the tie was in the mix until the closing quarter.

It leaves Sean Dancer’s side on three points, currently fourth in the group, with Germany and the Dutch on six and GB on three after two rounds. India and South Africa are yet to register points and they face GB and Netherlands next, respectively.

The Germans come into the tie with two wins from two under their belt, seeing off Great Britain 2-1 and then getting the better of India 2-0.

Both times, they had to dig in deep with GB running up 11 penalty corners in their contest while the brilliance of goalkeeper Julia Sonntag denied India from the penalty spot with the game evenly at 1-0.

For Ireland, they will be looking to recreate some of their recent record against Die Danas, drawing 1-1 at the 2019 Euros in Antwerp and winning fixtures in both 2017 and 2018.

More recently, though, Xavier Reckinger’s team have the edge with Germany winning 4-1 and 4-0 in fixtures in early 2020 in Stellenbosch.

In terms of line-up, they feature only one change from European Championship squad with sub goalkeeper Nathalie Kubalski moving to travelling reserve spot and outfielder Pauline Heinz comes into the squad of 18.

There is plenty of experience with six players from the 2016 Olympic bronze medal winning side – captain Nike Lorenz, Anne Schröder, Charlotte Stapenhorst, Lisa Altenburg, Franzisca Hauke and Cecile Pieper back once again.

The big surprise on the selection front was the omission of 2016 captain Janne Muller-Wieland. A veteran of 315 caps, she ended up living in England during lockdown with her partner and unable to travel back as often as coach Xavier Reckinger would have liked for training/camps.

The sides know each other well; Katie Mullan played with Kira Horn, Hanna Granitzki, Altenburg, Schröder and Viki Huse at Club an der Alster while Deirdre Duke lined out with Selin Oruz at Dusseldorf.

Ireland v Germany – head to head

Overall – 29 meetings

Ireland: 4 wins, 3 draws, 22 losses; goals for 27, goals against 73

Most recent meeting: January 2020: Ireland 1 (Ellen Curran) Germany 4 (Nike Lorenz, Lena Micheel, Anna Schröder, Kira Horan)

Last Irish win: June 2018 – 2-1 in Dusseldorf (Anna O’Flanagan and Ali Meeke goals); five meetings since.

Germany Olympic record: Gold in 2004, silver in 1992 and 1984 (as West Germany), bronze in 2016. Qualified via Olympic qualifiers with 9-0 aggregate win over Italy (2-0 and 7-0)

Germany current world ranking: 3rd, 2021 EuroHockey Championships runners-up, 2016 Olympic bronze medalists

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Four-star Netherlands eventually break down Green Army defences

Women’s Olympic Hockey – Pool A
Ireland 0 Netherlands 4 (F Albers, M Pheninckx, L Leurink, F Matla)
A late flurry of goals saw world number one side the Netherlands eventually break Ireland down and win 4-0 at the Oi Stadium on day two of the women’s Olympic hockey tournament.

Felice Albers had given the Dutch a strong start but the Green Army – inspired by an Ayeisha McFerran masterclass – kept the Oranje raiders out for the guts of 40 minutes. But a final quarter barrage from Malou Pheninckx, Laurien Leurink and Frédérique Matla saw the Dutch ease home.

In so doing, they matched June’s EuroHockey Championship scoreline, extending their winning streak over Ireland to 30 games dating back to 1963.

“Unfortunately today just wasn’t quite our day,” said the immaculate McFerran. “We dug in well and I’m really proud of the defensive effort everyone put in. It was a team effort out there but that’s the Dutch for you. They’re just quite good, aren’t they?

“There’s several things we have to take and learn from it. We can’t just brush it under the carpet, but we have to move on.”

On whether she has ever made more than the 14 saves she made against Netherlands on Monday, she added: “Not at international level anyway. That’s the thing with playing them, they’re just going to keep coming, they don’t stop and you just have to be ready for whatever comes your way.

“Tough day at the office, for sure. I’m ready for a wee nap anyway now.

“As tough as it is to say, ‘yeah let’s have fun’, going in and knowing you’re going to face them, you have to keep breathing and keep being ready for the next shot. You can’t dwell on what’s coming or what’s just happened. So it’s one shot or one action at a time.”

Pre-match, skipper Katie Mullan was honoured for her 200th international cap, becoming the eighth Irish woman to reach that milestone. Michelle Carey came into the line-up with Nicci Daly rested.

Early on, there was a familiar feeling when Albers deftly finished off a flowing Dutch move in the eighth minute, a sleight of hand to nick the ball away from McFerran and slot home after Malou Pheninckx picked her out on the right of the D.

The Irish goalkeeper had already shown her steel in the first few minutes, swatting away efforts from Lidewij Welten and Laura Nunnink while Sarah McAuley and Lena Tice scooped efforts off the goal line.

McFerran’s pick of the bunch was a diving stick-stop from Frédérique Matla’s ripper of a drag-flick, tipping it around the post with a measure of disdain.

The attacks came in waves but the Green Army were gritty and resolute, keeping the Oranje scoreless for the guts of 40 minutes. Maria Verschoor did have it in the net but an umpire’s referral from Xiaoying Liu ruled that out for a prior foot, adding to their frustrations.

That encompassed seven penalty corners which were well dealt with but the rearguard action was eventually breached in the 49th minute when Caia van Maasakker slammed a shot onto the inside of the post.

It fell kindly for Pheninckx and she just about got by her SV Kampong club mate, the diving McFerran almost eating up the ground to keep out a relatively simple chance.

Within a minute, the third goal arrived as Xan de Waard stormed through from the right channel and her offload dropped into the path of Laurien Leurink who flicked in on her backhand.

And the scoreline was complete in fortuitous fashion as Matla shanked her drag-flick so much that it wrong-footed the Irish defence all ends up and dribbled down the middle.

It leaves Ireland with three points from two games ahead of Wednesday morning’s date with Germany (4.15am, Irish time)

Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, H McLoughlin, R Upton, L Tice, C Watkins, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, D Duke, N Carroll
Subs: S McCay, H Matthews, L Holden, M Carey, S Torrans

Netherlands: J Koning, S Koolen, M Pheninckx, X de Waard, F Albers, L Welten, C van Maasakker, F Matla, L Stam, M van Geffen, E de Goede
Subs: L Leurink, M Keetels, M Verschoor, P Sanders, L Nunnink

Umpires: X Liu (CHN), M Meister (GER

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Under-19 girls land Four Nations title with boys finishing second

Ireland’s Under-19 girls shared the spoils with Scotland over their two games this weekend to take the Four Nations Series title while the Irish boys finished in second place.

Leading the table by two points from England going into the final series of the three-week competition, the Little Green Army had the title confirmed by Saturday night.

That was because of a 1-1 draw against the Scots, picking up the bonus point via a shoot-out success. In the meantime, Wales beat England 3-2 to put Ireland into an unassailable lead.

Gavin Groves’ side concluded the series with a 0-0 draw on Sunday at Jordanstown against the Scots and were denied in the shoot-out 2-1 but it proved immaterial in the final reckoning.

“It’s really satisfying for the whole group to sign off the programme with some success,” Groves said of the title, a welcome one after almost 18 months between fixtures for this key development group.

“The players have put so much in to these programmes so it was nice for them to get a little reward at the end.

“We were really happy with how the group has progressed through this series and we are delighted to have provided a platform for these players to push on to the next phase of their playing career. The consistent level of performance and aligned well with the results.

“We would like to thank AIB and all our other sponsors for their support. It gives us the opportunity to run this programme in a professional manner and provides the players with everything they need.”

In game one, Holly Barr gave Ireland the lead 40 seconds into the second half with a perfect deflection from a penalty corner swept down the right channel.

Lucy Smith equalised with five minutes remaining, peeling away from goal and smacking home with a powerful shot.

That sent the tie to a shoot-out for the extra bonus point. In tandem with Wales’ 3-2 win over England in the other Saturday match, it meant Ireland were four points clear in the group overnight and guaranteed the title.

On the boys side, Scotland leap-frogged Ireland on the final day of the competition with a smash and grab 2-0 success at Jordanstown.

Ireland had held the slight edge on Saturday evening after a remarkable 4-4 draw was followed by a shoot-out success.

In that game, Scotland took the lead with the last play of the first half from a corner rebound with Pete Caughey following up for 1-0.

Patrick Rose equalised just over a minute into the second half with a rasping shot on his backhand, kickstarting a thrilling second half. Jamie Croll got in behind the last defender to return Scotland to the lead five minutes later and Keir Robb’s reverse extended the lead out to 3-1.

Ireland levelled up, though, when Craig Mackay converted a penalty stroke and Adam Walker added a penalty corner, making it 3-3 with seven seconds left in the third quarter.

Robb got an outstanding fourth goal for Scotland to put them in front yet again with 11 minutes remaining but, ultimately, it was a draw when Kent Irwin’s brilliant pulled the ball out of reach of the goalkeeper and slotted home.

The shoot-out was won 4-3, bringing a bonus point that gave Ireland a slight edge going into the final game of the competition.

Craig Mackay celebrates his goal on Saturday. Picture: Adrian Boehm

It had Simon Lowry’s side a point ahead going into the final game and needing a draw to capture the crown but, try as they might, it proved elusive.

The Irish came out of the blocks in the first quarter the busier side but the Scots managed to weather the storm, and were dangerous on occasions on the counter-attack.
Adam MacKenzie put them 1-0 up from a rebound to put the Scots into the lead. The hosts had numerous penalty corner chances and close-run efforts in the final quarter but an equaliser could not be found.

Moments after Fionn Marriott’s reverse flashed across the face of goal, Scotland broke well and Keir Robb rounded the goalkeeper to clip home the second goal in the last three minutes.

It meant a second placed finish and a strong development base for a wide group of players with Lowry deploying out over 30 players in the course of these six games.

Girls
Saturday:
Ireland 1 (H Barr) Scotland 1 (L Smith), Ireland win shoot-out 3-0
Sunday: Ireland 0 Scotland 0, Scotland win shoot-out 2-1
Standings: 1. Ireland 13pts (+12) 2. Scotland 9pts (+3) 3. England 8pts (0) 4. Wales 6pts (-15)

Boys
Saturday:
Ireland 4 (P Rose, C Mackay, A Walker, K Irwin) Scotland 4 (K Robb 2, P Caughey, R Croll), Ireland win shoot-out 4-3
Sunday: Ireland 0 Scotland 2 (A MacKenzie, K Robb)
Standings: 1. Scotland 13pts (+6) 2. Ireland 11pts (+4) 3. England 7pts (-2) 4. Wales 5pts (-8)

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Ireland get body-clocks ready for Dutch challenge

** Ireland v Netherlands will be broadcast live on RTE2 from 2am on Monday, July 26 – note this will be geo-blocked in Northern Ireland)
** For viewers in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, Discovery+ will broadcast every game from the Olympics live here: https://www.discoveryplus.co.uk/olympics/sport/field-hockey

Precious little time to rest on their laurels, the Green Army are straight back into action in the early hours of Monday morning (2am Irish time) to be precise when they take on the world number one Netherlands.

Both sides started on a winning note on Saturday, Ireland memorably winning their first ever women’s Olympic fixture 2-0 against South Africa while the Dutch shook off India in the second half 5-1.

For coach Sean Dancer, he says one of the toughest challenges is to get the body-clocks in sync. Saturday’s tie was a 9.15pm locally while game two is a 10am start, a very different proposition.

Nonetheless, his side got their mindset spot on for what could have been a tense opening date and getting into that groove will be key.

“These girls have been around, pushing as hard as they can for a long time to get to this position,” he said of their debut. “I feel very privileged to be part of it. I wanted them to enjoy it and that has certainly been the message over the last couple of days, relax, enjoy it and get into the game which they did really well.”

Katie Mullan admitted there were some celebratory songs on the bus from the Oi Stadium back to the Olympic Village but things toned down after that.

“We are the first female Irish sports team of any sort to come to an Olympic Games. That’s a huge honour and a history-making moment for our team and country, something to be very proud of.

“It was a dream come true, as cliché as that sounds. It’s been over a decade in the making and there is a little moment of thought for all those players, ex-internationals, who paved the way for us to be able to do that. It is such a great moment for our sport and was very, very special.”

Having finally reached the Games, goalscorer Roisin Upton is delighted they do not have to hang around for game two: “It’s been a long wait to get to this point so thank God we only have to wait one day for the next game!

“The turnaround time is tight for us and we have got to make sure we give ourselves the best chance.”

It is Ireland’s second meeting with the Dutch this summer, the previous one a 4-0 loss in the European group stages. Since then, Ireland have made a number of changes with Sarah Torrans and Sarah McAuley coming into the fold. For the Dutch, Xan de Waard has recovered from injury but Ireen van den Assem missed out.

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Ireland v Netherlands – head to head

Overall – 37 meetings

Ireland: 4 wins, 0 draws, 33 losses; goals for 23, goals against 136

Most recent meeting: June 2021: Ireland 0 Netherlands 4 (Laurien Leurink 2, Caia van Maasakker, Frederique Matla)

Last Irish win: March 1963 – 3-2 in Dublin; Netherlands with 29 consecutive wins

Netherlands Olympic record: Winners in 1984, 2008 and 2012; silver in 2016 and 2004, bronze in 1988, 1996, 2000; only outside the medals once

NL Current world ranking: 1st; reigning Euro, World Cup and FIH Pro League champions