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O’Flanagan double sees Ireland secure return to World Cup stage

Women’s FIH World Cup qualifiers
Ireland 2 (A O’Flanagan 2) Wales 1 (I Howell)

Anna O’Flanagan’s poacher’s double propelled the Irish women to a second successive World Cup appearance, crucially firing home the winner with 11 minutes to go against Wales in Pisa.

It saw Ireland grind out the win – and the place at the 2022 showpiece – against a physically robust Welsh outfit who were this tournament’s surprise package and made life exceptionally difficult throughout.

The Green Army had hit the front early on courtesy of O’Flanagan through a lovely team move featuring Lena Tice and Sarah Torrans. Wales levelled, though, before the end of the first quarter through Isabelle Howell from a well-worked penalty corner.

That set up an incredibly tense middle phase with both side enjoying spells in control. But the game opening up in the closing quarter when Wales were reduced to nine players with Phoebe Richards and Emily Rowlands going to the sin-bin.

In their absence, Zara Malseed intercepted wide on the left and utilised the extra space to bounce an inviting pass to O’Flanagan who smashed home on the volley.

Ireland duly held Wales at arm’s length for the remaining minutes to finish off a huge week’s work, backing up wins over France and Belarus to take the one ticket on offer to the main event which will be played in Amsterdam and Valencia next summer.

“What just happened here is a huge moment for the legacy of this team, continuing to build on the success we have already had,” captain Katie Mullan said in the aftermath.

“We knew it would be a defining moment. It wasn’t pretty but it shows the character within our group to come away from the game with a win from such a tough battle. Credit to Wales, they put on a big performance and took us right to the end.”

The tournament followed a gruelling schedule in 2021 with June’s European Championships followed by the Olympics and then less than 12 weeks to regroup with a new look panel for this competition.

“We’ve played three tough tournaments in one year at international level with the Euros, the Olympics and this qualifier. It is pretty unheard of so it was always going to be a tough ask after the Olympics to bring the group back together to come here and do the job.

“I am so proud of us for doing that. Now, we have another amazing tournament to look forward to and prepare for.

“This group needs to be going to major tournament after major tournament. This was the first roadblock after 2018 and this is a massive achievement. It may not seem like it is bigger than some of what we have done in the past but, for our sport, to continue to grow the way it has and to continue to inspire the next generation, it was so important for us.

“I have no doubt the players who have stepped away and retired in recent weeks will be the most happy watching it today, seeing us get over the line because they will be the ones in the stands next summer supporting us.”

Ireland were dealt a blow before the start with Hannah McLoughlin forced out through injury. It meant Kilpatrick came into the line-up for her first cap, a huge stage on which the Belfast Harlequins defender acquitted herself well.

Like the semi-final, the Green Army were on the board inside the first 10 minutes following another flying start. After an early corner chance went incomplete, Ireland settled into a good routine of pressure and worked the opening goal when Tice fired a ball toward the circle, Torrans touched it behind her back into the mixer where O’Flanagan sniped to tip the ball under Roseanne Thomas.

A couple more corner chances were earned but Wales nicked a set piece of their own in the closing seconds of the quarter and produced a perfect move to the right post where Isabelle Howell slid in to make it 1-1.

The free-flowing format of Saturday’s win over Belarus was hard to come and while Naomi Carroll went close and Chloe Watkins’ searching passes into the circle caused danger, the clear-cut openings were hard to come by.

Indeed, the Dragons had the upper hand in the third quarter with Tice required to do some important clean-up work in the goalmouth to maintain parity.

That was until Richards cleaned out Michelle Carey to ship a yellow card. Seconds later, Rowlands and Torrans followed to the naughty step for an altercation in the Welsh circle, leaving lots more room to move.

Ireland celebrate. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

And that was when Malseed read a loose pass out of defence and quickly sped toward goal, chipping the ball up as she went. Her bouncing pass evaded to encroaching defenders and picked out O’Flanagan who crashed home.

Wales attempted to throw everything forward in the closing 10 minutes but Ireland closed out the tie with composure and steel, putting them on course for the World Cup.

Captain Mullan paid tribute to O’Flanagan’s goalscoring heroics while also saying the new faces played a vital role with Niamh Carey popping up with Saturday’s winner against Belarus and the likes of Ellen Curran, Erin Getty and Kilpatrick also making their tournament debuts.

“Anna showed today why she is a world class forward, the best forward to come through Irish women’s hockey. She fronted up today when the pressure was on.

“She deserves this moment of elation but I have to give such a special mention to the new girls who have come in, the energy and excitement they have brought. They fronted up in key moments and we couldn’t have done it without them and the future is very bright for this team.”

Ireland: A McFerran, E Getty, R Upton, K Mullan, L Tice, N Carroll, C Watkins, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, N Carey, S McAuley
Subs: Z Malseed, M Carey, S Torrans, D Duke, E Curran, J Kilpatrick, L Murphy

Wales: R Thomas, S French, S Jones, P Richards, E Bingham, L Wilkinson, M Lewis-Williams, X Hughes, J Westwood, S-J Thorburn, M Holme
Subs: O Hoskins, S Robinson, E Drysdale, I Howell, E Rowlands, I Webb, E Jackson

Umpires: C Martin-Schmets (BEL), H Harrison (ENG)

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Green Machine undone in third place playoff by Austria

Men’s FIH World Cup qualifiers
Ireland 3 (J McKee 2, J Duncan) Austria 3 (N Wellan, F Unterkircher, O Binder), Austria win shoot-out 4-3

Ireland’s men fell to another frustrating shoot-out defeat to end their World Cup qualifying tournament in fourth place, falling to Austria 4-3 in a shoot-out after normal time ended 3-3.

Ireland’s hopes of a World Cup ticket had been dashed a day earlier via the same method at the hands of Wales, leaving this tie solely to settle ranking points.

And despite the Green Machine starting well, Austria scored from their first attack of note with Nikolas Wellan deflecting home from a crash ball.

Fabian Unterkircher snagged a second before half-time, again against the run of play as Ireland looked set to bow out on a low-key note.

But a concerted second half effort saw Ireland roar back into contention. Jonny McKee flicked in from mid-circle after Tim Cross’s ball in from the right flank and he levelled the game up when Ben Walker’s shot at goal looped up off Mateusz Szymczyk and spun invitingly for the Banbridge man to tip in.

It looked like the comeback was complete when Jeremy Duncan cashed in from a penalty corner rebound – Ireland’s eighth of the game – but, in a fractious closing phase, Austria summoned up one last attack with Oliver Binder ghosting in at the back post to make it 3-3.

In the shoot-out, Ireland switched up their line-up from Saturday with Shane O’Donoghue – playing in his 200th cap – scoring his own effort as well as two penalty strokes, won by Daragh Walsh and Sean Murray.

The outcome, though, hinged on a bizarre moment when Fülöp Lusonci stood on the ball in his shoot-out but it was missed by the three umpires and he did not delay in popping home the ball.

That edged them 3-2 in front and they held on to win 4-3 with Michael Körper scoring in the final round of the shoot-out.

Ireland: J Carr, L Madeley, J McKee, D Walsh, S O’Donoghue, P McKibbin, M Robson, B Walker, C Harte, L Cole, S Hyland
Subs: T Cross, N Glassey, K Marshall, S Murray, J Duncan, C Empey, M Ingram

Austria: M Szymczyk, O Binder, D Uher, M Körper, D Fröhlich, F Steyrer, M Frey, F Unterkircher, F Lindengrun, F Losonci, X Hasun
Subs: T Mayer, S Eitenberger, H Podpera, B Kölbl, P Stanzl, N Wellan, L Rizzi

Umpires: I Diamond (SCO), B Goentgen (GER)

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Ireland’s men denied World Cup spot as Wales prevail in shoot-out

Men’s World Cup qualifier
Ireland 1 (M Robson) Wales 1 (J Naughalty), Wales win shoot-out 2-1

Ireland’s men suffered shoot-our heartache once again as they came unstuck against Wales in Cardiff in their World Cup qualifier, meaning they miss out on the 2023 showpiece event in India.

The Green Machine had missed out on the Olympics via the same method to Canada and this was similarly devastating as a huge second half performance could not yield the vital goal in normal time.

Michael Robson had given Ireland a first minute lead, countered by Joey Naughalty’s equaliser on 19 minutes. Wales had the edge in the first half but it was Mark Tumilty’s side who looked more and more likely to win it in the second.

But 1-1 at full-time left it down to the shoot-out and Welsh goalkeeper Toby Reynolds-Cotterill kept out four efforts with Rupert Shipperley and Jack Pritchard doing the damage in a 2-1 outcome.

“We started well, got ahead before having a disappointing second quarter,” coach Mark Tumilty reflected on the fixture.

“We played well in the second half, created plenty of chances but unfortunately we weren’t able to take one of them and then we didn’t deliver in the shoot-out. It’s as straight-forward as that.

“The momentum was going in our favour [late on]. We did all the right things, started to find space but just couldn’t find that killer ball or that killer touch to get the goal we needed to get across the line. It’s another hard lesson for these players and a disappointing day for Irish men’s hockey.”

Like the women earlier in the day, Ireland were flying in the first minute as – with 45 seconds on the clock – a three-man turnover on halfway led to Jonny McKee racing forward. Toby Reynolds-Cotterill blocked his shot but it fell kindly for Michael Robson to flick by the prone goalkeeper.

Wales, though, have been enjoying a relative golden period of late, rising up seven places in the world rankings to their highest ever position. Luke Hawker shot wide from a big chance while an early umpire’s whistle saved Ireland when Naughalty flicked over Jamie Carr with a penalty corner given before the ball crossed the goal line.

Carr was superb in repelling a couple of Gareth Furlong penalty corners but he could not keep out Naughalty’s upright backhand shot after he wriggled this way and that to find a shooting chance; 1-1 in the 19th minute.

Ireland settled before half-time with some neat right-wing attacks almost unlocking the door with Tim Cross’s overlapping a feature. And they started to build more and more momentum as time went on.

A series of three penalty corners just before the end of the third quarter provided a major talking point as, this time, Ireland were denied by a premature whistle. Shane O’Donoghue’s drag-flick fell to McKee who scored at the second attempt only for a penalty corner to be given instead. The reset chance was denied by Reynolds-Cotterill.

O’Donoghue saw yellow in Q4 but Ireland still created more in that phase as Sam Hyland and McKee and Ben Walker all tested the goalkeeper. O’Donoghue returned to sting the palm of Reynolds-Cotterill once more with two minutes to go as Wales clung on.

And the Welsh keeper produced the heroics in that shoot-out phase to send them to the World Cup, denying Ireland a ticket to the elite stage.

Ireland will close out the tournament with a third place playoff against Austria but the ultimate prize from this competition has proven out of reach.

“Tomorrow’s a game where we will have a green shirt on and we want to win but it doesn’t mean a whole lot other than a few world ranking points,” Tumilty added. “We need to regroup and go again to finish the tournament on a high but it’s a difficult day.”

Ireland: J Carr, T Cross, J McKee, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, J Duncan, M Robson, B Walker, C Harte, L Cole
Subs: L Madeley, D Walsh, N Glassey, P McKibbin, C Empey, S Hyland, M Ingram

Wales: T Reynolds-Cotterill D Kyriakides, I Wall, A Dinnie, J Draper, L Prosser, R Shipperley, R Bradshaw, G Furlong, J Morgan, L Hawker
Subs: J Naughalty, R Furlong, J Carson, D Hutchinson, O Dolan-Gray, J Pritchard, I Tranter

Umpires: N Bennett (ENG), J Mejzlik (CZE)

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Niamh Carey nabs vital winner as Green Army move one step closer to World Cup

** Ireland celebrate Niamh Carey’s winning goal. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

Women’s World Cup qualifier
Ireland 3 (L Tice, A O’Flanagan, N Carey) Belarus 2 (S Bahushevich, R Batura)
Niamh Carey’s incredible start to her international career continued as her 48th minute goal earned Ireland a 3-2 win over Belarus in Pisa, putting them within one win of the 2022 World Cup.

It was a remarkable piece of work as she was knocked over by Belarus goalkeeper Maryna Navitskaya but still managed to roll over on the ground and scoop the ball into the backboard.

Earlier, Ireland had made a brilliant start with Lena Tice and Anna O’Flanagan putting them 2-0 up inside four minutes only for Belarus to fight back with Sviatlana Bahushevich and Ryta Batura levelling things.

But Ireland kept their nerve with skipper Katie Mullan picking out Carey with a beautiful line into the circle from which Carey settled the contest.

“It certainly wasn’t the way we wanted the game to go, especially when we went 2-0 up so early,” was coach Sean Dancer’s assessment.

“Credit to Belarus who got back into it and had some nice plays. Their coach [Herman Kruis] has certainly been doing some good stuff with them and it turned into a hard fought match but, to our credit, the girls kept fighting and won it which is the main aim.”

Ireland pre-match. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

“It’s still do or die! Final tomorrow but we always knew it was going to be the case. We are up for the challenge and are under no illusion whether we play Scotland or Wales [at 3pm Irish time]. We need to bring it and probably bring a little bit more than we did today!”

The Green Army could scarcely have started better with Michelle Carey burning up the middle to win a first minute penalty corner. Lena Tice powered home from the top with an accurate slap for 1-0.

The speed shown by Carey was a sign of things to come as the direct running of her, twin sister Niamh and Sarah Hawkshaw wreaked havoc throughout the tie.

In the fourth minute, Anna O’Flanagan was then credited with the final touch from a real melée, created by Niamh Carey’s charge and shot which spun up and behind the goalkeeper Maryna Navitskaya. Naomi Carroll had the first bite and O’Flanagan followed up to make extra sure.

But any notion Belarus would be a beaten docket was quickly dispelled as Sviatlana Bahushevich deftly flicked in from close range in just the fifth minute.

At that stage, it looked set to be a goalfest with the game wide open with Ireland looking to exploit their speed at every opportunity to stretch the game. For Dancer, the pace of Sarah Hawkshaw, Sarah Torrans and the Carey twins was a key factor but, allied to the way Belarus approached the tie, it made for a helter-skelter fixture.
“One of our strengths is our speed and skill and we certainly want to bring that as much as possible. The way Belarus set up their press and structure allowed the game to become quite open. In the end, it probably became too open.

Indeed, it was a surprise the tie made it through the second and third quarters without further action on the scoreboard. Niamh Carey’s goalbound effort was hooked off the line by a back-pedaling defender while a Mullan crack at goal pinged the post.

The Green Army could not make further use of their half-dozen penalty corners and Sarah Torrans agonisingly missing out from a Hawkshaw cross.

While they were creating the better chances, Belarus always looked like they were in the hunt, forcing some big interventions from Hannah McLoughlin and Róisín Upton.

Niamh Carey on the attack. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

And so it proved in the closing quarter from the Belarussians first set of corners, Ryta Batura eventually scrambling home after a couple of deflections.

But no sooner were they level than Ireland replied with Mullan’s rangy pass and Carey’s brilliant finish. It made it two goals in two capped international matches for the current UCD student, raised at Railway Union, with a memorable finish.

And Coach Dancer has been thrilled by her all-round game this week: “It’s a great conversion rate off the bat, two from two! The impressive thing she brings is her engine, her speed and endurance make it really tough for people to keep up with her. She got some really nice touches in at times when we needed them.”

It puts Ireland through to the final of this tournament where the World Cup ticket will ultimately be decided with Scotland or Wales the opposition.

Ireland: A McFerran, M Carey, R Upton, K Mullan, L Tice, H McLoughlin, C Watkins, S Torrans, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, N Carey
Subs: E Getty, Z Malseed, N Carroll, D Duke, E Curran, S McAuley, L Murphy

Belarus: M Navitskaya, I Siamionava, H Zhylevich, U Kasabutskaya, D Belavusava, R Batura, Y Yubko, S Bahushevich, K Papkova, M Nikitsina, V Lapitskaya
Subs: N Shtsin, K Mihunova, K Kutai, D Hanets, A Sys, K Zhuk, T Liavonava

Umpires: H Harrison (ENG), C Martin-Schmets (BEL)

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Irish World Cup hopes to be determined over the weekend

** Ireland’s men in Cardiff. Picture: Irfon Bennett

The Irish men and women’s teams will hope to end this weekend with World Cup qualification tickets confirmed following their respective Thursday wins over Russia and France.

Both face knock-out fixtures on Saturday with the men facing Wales in Cardiff in a straight showdown for a ticket to India 2023. The women, meanwhile, have to win twice over the weekend, starting on Saturday against Belarus with victory setting up a Sunday date with either Wales or Scotland.

It means no margin for error but it is something men’s coach Mark Tumilty is keen to play down and focus on the performance at this stage.

“Qualifying not something we have talked too much about. The focus has always been putting in two performances this week for 60 minutes – we have done one of them and now it’s just 60 minutes again but to get to a World Cup would be fantastic!”

It will be a huge tussle against the home nation. Historically, Ireland have had the edge over Wales but the hosts are currently enjoying a golden period, rising seven places in the world rankings to an all-time high of 18th.

Indeed, they relegated Ireland from the top tier of European hockey in 2019 with a 4-0 result in Belgium and, in Rupert Shipperley and Jacob Draper, have Olympic experience to show the level of quality they now bring to the table.

Much has changed in the past two years with Tumilty bringing in several high quality new faces to the line-up and his new look side will aim to build on the composed win over Russia.

The Green Army in Pisa. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

With tickets sold out, Ireland will be looking to spoil the party and secure a place at the World Cup for a third time.

For the women, they meet a Belarus side in their qualifier semi-final who are ranked nine places below Ireland but produced a stand-out 7-1 win over Russia in the first round.

The Green Army have won the last four meetings between the sides but that performance means there is little room for complacency. Indeed, Belarus won the second tier of the European Championships in August and are coming in hot from a busy summer leading up to this tournament.

With the two countries moving in different circles on the world stage this summer, Chloe Watkins says it will be a new challenge.

“It is difficult to predict how things will pan out and we haven’t seen a huge amount about how they play so far so it is difficult to plan. But if we play to our potential, we should have enough in us to get over the line. We reset after the France game and now we focus on Saturday and nothing else.”

That tie takes place at 11am (Irish time) with www.eurohockeytv.org the outlet streaming the fixture. The men’s tie follows on the same website from 2.30pm.

Saturday, October 23rd
World Cup qualifier fixtures
Ireland v Wales, Cardiff, 2.30pm

Women: Ireland v Belarus, Pisa, 11am (Irish time)


Trinity to host reformatted Intervarsities

This year’s Intervarsities will take place in a new format with the women’s Chilean Cup and Plate taking place on October 23rd with the Mauritius Cup and Plate for men being played a day later on October 24th.

To account for Covid-19 restrictions, the premier third level competitions is back on the calendar having been ruled out in 2020 and it will be played over one day each rather than the usual three-day event.

In the Chilean Cup, four teams will take part with Trinity College, Ulster University, DCU and TU Dublin. It leaves a strong potential for a new winner with DCU and TU Dublin having not won the title before in its 85-year history.

Trinity’s last success was in 2002 while UU are the only side to break the UCD monopoly on the title since 2010, winning in 2015. The Belfield outfit is not taking part in this year’s competition.

The four entrants will face off in an initial round-robin series with the top two advancing to the final at 5pm on Saturday evening with all the games being played at Trinity’s Santry Avenue grounds.

The Chilean Plate takes place on the same day and will feature Maynooth University, RCSI and TU Shannon who are making their debut in the competition.

A day later at the same venue, the Mauritius Cup will take place in the same format with Trinity College, Ulster University, DCU and TU Dublin taking part once again with the same match sequence.

TU Dublin are the only side yet to take home the Mauritius Cup before with Trinity having won the title 22 times, UU 14 times and DCU bringing it back St Clare’s in 2001 and 2010.

The Mauritius Plate will feature University of Limerick, Maynooth University and RCSI.

Entry list

Mauritius Cup: Trinity College, Ulster University, Dublin City University, Technological University Of Dublin
Chilean Cup: Trinity College, Ulster University, Dublin City University, Technological University Of Dublin
Mauritius Plate: University Of Limerick, Maynooth University, Royal College Of Surgeons
Chilean Plate: Maynooth University, Royal College Of Surgeons, Technological University Of Shannon

Chilean Cup schedule (all at Santry Avenue; Saturday, October 23):
9.30am: TCD vs DCU
10.45am: UU vs TUD
12pm: TUD vs TCD
1.15pm: UU vs DCU
2.30pm: DCU vs TUD
3.45pm: UU vs TCD
5pm: Cup Final

Mauritius Cup schedule (all at Santry Avenue; Sunday, October 24)
9.30am: TCD vs DCU
10.45am: UU vs TUD
12pm: TUD vs TCD
1.15pm: UU vs DCU
2.30pm: DCU vs TUD
3.45pm: UU vs TCD
5pm: Cup Final

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Walker double puts Irish men within one win of 2023 World Cup

Men’s FIH World Cup qualifier
Ireland 2 (B Walker 2) Russia 0

Ben Walker’s double put Ireland within one win of the 2023 World Cup as they got the best of Russia 2-0 in Cardiff with a composed defensive performance.

Walker swooped in the first five minutes of each time with close-range finishes to left-wing crosses to make the difference.

Around that, Ireland were cool and calm at the back with Jamie Carr recording a clean sheet with some robust stops while the likes of Conor Harte, Kyle Marshall and Lee Cole left precious little through.

It means a win on Saturday against either Wales of Italy would stamp the Green Machine ticket to India 2023 and in that context, Walker described it as “a perfect start but only have the job is done”.

“We have a bit of time to recover and it is hard to get too excited over one game because it will mean nothing if we don’t see it through then.

“We were very solid at the back and Jamie [Carr] did pull off some fantastic saves which kept us 1-0 in the first half. We had a good mindset, took our chances when they came and probably could have had one or two more.”

Captain Sean Murray concurred, adding: “In a must-win game, it wasn’t the prettiest but we are happy to come away with the 2-0 and move on, do the homework on whoever we play next from Wales or Italy.

“We all know defence will win us the game; if we shut the back door then the lads will do the job up top. Sometimes they had counters but the lads did well to break things down, put in the good tackles and, with Jamie in nets – a world class goalkeeper – he made the saves he had to make which made the difference.”

It took just four minutes to get up and running with a brilliant turnover 60-metres out from goal was transformed into a rangy run from John McKee. He drifted left before clipping across goal where Walker was crouching low to deflect home.

Conor Empey – in his tournament debut – flashed over another chance soon after before Russia settled, aiming to deploy their counter-attacks from distance. They also drew a first corner which Tim Cross charged down well.

Alexey Sobolevskiy went inches wide with another chance but, by and large, Ireland were absorbing their attacks with relative comfort and they carried the 1-0 lead into half-time.

One became two in the 33rd minute, this time Shane O’Donoghue was the creator with a quick free down the left corner and he picked a fine angle for his cross. Walker nipped in front of his marker and guided in another sweet first-time finish.

And that was how it remained as Russia never really picked up enough momentum to threaten a comeback while Tumilty’s side had a couple of counters which could have yielded more tangible rewards.

Sobolevskiy’s shot on the turn was booted away by Carr while his counterpart Ivan Ozherlev produced an incredible block to deny Cole from an Irish penalty corner which would have killed the game off with seven minutes to go.

It was not required, though, and Ireland’s two senior national teams – following the women’s 4-1 success over France earlier – can now enjoy a Friday to rest and recover having significantly advanced their World Cup hopes.

Ireland: J Carr, T Cross, J McKee, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, J Duncan, M Robson, B Walker, L Cole
Subs: L Madeley, D Walsh, N Glassey, P McKibbin, C Empey, S Hyland, M Ingram

Russia: I Ozherelev, N Yankun, S Matkovskiy, A Skiperskiy, E Artemov, P Golubev, I Loginov, A Borisov, A Sobolevskiy, D Starienko, I Zamalutdinov
Subs: D Kuraev, G Arusiia, D Bereza, D Zheleznyakov, A Dryanitsyn

Umpires: I Diamond (SCO), P van den Assum (NED)

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Green Army shake off shackles to beat France in opening World Cup qualifier

** Niamh Carey celebrates her debut goal. Picture: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

Women’s FIH World Cup qualifier
Ireland 4 (R Upton, H McLoughlin, Z Malseed, N Carey) France 1 (G van Bolhuis)

Ireland moved a step closer to World Cup qualification as they overcame a sticky first half to eventually run riot against France in Pisa, setting up a Saturday date with Belarus in the semi-finals.

An even and relatively chanceless first half was contrasted by a big second half in which corner goals from Róisín Upton and Hannah McLoughlin settled the nerves before a flurry of late goals saw Zara Malseed and debutante Niamh Carey also on the mark.

They will now go on to meet Belarus in Saturday’s semi-final (11am, Irish time) following their hugely impressive 7-1 win over Russia in the tournament’s opening game. Ireland need to win that one and then also succeed in Sunday’s final to assure passage to next summer’s main event.

Reflecting on the win, Upton said it was crucial to follow the pre-match plan despite the first half frustrations and it paid dividends.

“It’s something we talked about, sticking to the process no matter how long the game went on at 0-0, or even if we concede,” the Limerick woman said afterwards.

“We were really pleased we stuck to the plan and broke through. We knew we needed to win corners; the execution in the first half wasn’t so good so we had to pick it up and nail it. Getting on the scoresheet early in the second half settled everyone.”

Early on, the Green Army enjoyed a bright start, winning a couple of penalty corners to no avail while Anna O’Flanagan drew an excellent stop from Mathilde Petriaux who impressed for the world number 27 side.

France, though, also showed intent with Emma Ponthieu at the heart of things, keeping Ayeisha McFerran on her toes as the first half ended blank.

After the break, Sean Dancer’s side hit full throttle with Sarah Hawkshaw winning the corner which led to the deadlock being broken, a rocket of a penalty corner in the 32nd minute.

McFerran was forced to make a stunning low glove save from Marie Simon’s corner chance as the French upped their intensity having gone behind but Ireland finished out the third quarter better.

And they got an extra buffer from a corner; Upton’s first-up shot was blocked but McLoughlin picked up the ball and unleashed a brilliant backhand shot which took a slight touch in off a defender.

Malseed got in on the act with another powerful strike on her reverse for 3-0 as goals suddenly rained in thick and fast. Guusje van Bolhuis got one back a minute later from a French set piece but respite was brief for her side as Niamh Carey swooped to tip in a rebound from Ellen Curran’s initial shot for 4-1.

And Upton said it was not surprising to see the UCD player get in on the act.

“It’s no different to what we see every day in training! Her first cap has been a long time coming but she scores goals like that constantly, even in the uncapped games and it is great to have her here.”

For Carey, herself, it was a super start to her international career, a marked difference from her twin Michelle’s first cap during June’s European Championships.

“Knowing it was a tournament game, there is that added pressure of it being ‘must-win’. It was nice, though, facing a lower-ranked team, unlike [her twin] Michelle’s first cap against Holland [in June], knowing we would have more of the ball and I would get some touches than she would have had!”

Next up, Ireland (12th in the world) will meet Belarus (21st) with a place in Sunday’s final on offer. The Green Army must win both to qualify for the World Cup.

Ireland: A McFerran, M Carey, R Upton, K Mullan, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, C Watkins, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, N Carey
Subs: E Getty, Z Malseed, S Torrans, D Duke, E Curran, S McAuley, L Murphy

France: M Petriaux, E Ponthieu, J Brachet, M Simon, A Lesgourgues, G van Bolhuis, E Verzura, I Lardeur, A Garot, D Gaspari, T-M Schubert
Subs: M Lahlah, Y Lhopital, G Verrier, E van der Zanden, N Roque, L Ehrmann

Umpires: Y Makar (CRO), L Baljon (NED)

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Carr looking to finally hit turf at World Cup qualifiers after Polish quarantine

For Jamie Carr, this week’s World Cup qualifier in Cardiff has already proven a significant improvement on August’s European Championships as the Irish goalkeeper looks to make a big impact this week (all games to be streamed live on www.eurohockeytv.org).

The Green Machine take on Russia in their first game on Thursday (4pm, Irish time) with only a win keeping alive their chances of reaching the World Cup in January 2023. Advance and they will meet either Wales or Italy on Saturday for a winner-takes-all showdown for one of the two spot on offer this week from the tournament.

** Click here for full squad announcement

“We’re headed in the right direction for sure,” Carr said ahead of the tournament this week. “We have checked all the boxes before the tournament, made sure everything was covered and the lads are raring to go.

“We have learned a lot over the last year from the last qualifiers through the Euros this summer. We are ready to put right our shortcomings in the past and put a big performance in.”

Indeed, the team have all reported present and correct in the Welsh capital, something of a relief for the panel who were beset by close contact cases for those Euros in Poland.

In the end, despite no positive tests, two of the initially named squad had to stay at home after close-contact pings while Carr and Luke Madeley ended up stuck in a Gniezno hotel room for 10 days, only venturing outdoors on their day of arrival and departure in Poland.

“Someone had entered the flight without a PCR test or vaccine; when they arrived in Poland, they tested positive,” the goalkeeper explains of the nightmare scenario.

“At first, our whole squad was deemed a close contact [and had to stay indoors] until we confirmed who were fully vaccinated. Luke and I were the only ones who didn’t have our second vaccinations so we had to self-isolate for the full 10 days.”

Jamie Carr with Conor Harte prior to Ireland’s meeting with Malaysia in October. Pic Billy Pollock

It meant a frustrating watching brief for the duo who currently play with KHC Leuven in Belgium following a hugely successful spell with Three Rock Rovers, winning three successive EY Champions Trophies.

“Watching the lads play was a nightmare! Game days were stressful and unenjoyable! Of course, we were fully supporting the lads but it was difficult seeing them out there, knowing you should be too, testing negative a thousand times, putting that hard work to the test. It’s just life sometimes.

“I tried to give input into team meetings from watching the video clips and help the defenders, give them tips as if I was out on the pitch.”

Nonetheless, it offered a rare opportunity to see the tactical game in a different light: “Watching it that way [stuck in a hotel room], you can take the emotion out of it and see the bigger picture.

“I [usually] only see things from the goal from one perspective and can’t see the whole picture. I was able to gain an insight the lads wouldn’t have when we chatted about it while they could also feel something [on the pitch] which I hadn’t noticed in the heat of the moment. You can gain that perspective.”

It’s not a perspective he is willing to try out too often, though, and since that tournament, he has hit the ground running with Leuven.

His club coach Xavi Trenchs is a former Spanish international goalkeeper and recently publicly sung his praises, saying in the Belgian press: “he has everything to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world”.

Carr – along with Irish team mates Daragh Walsh, Madeley and Sean Murray – have helped the club sit third in the Honor Division. That form is timely for Ireland between the posts with David Harte working his way back from injury sustained in the spring.

And Carr says getting such high quality games in the league of World and Olympic champions has been a massive boost.

“There is only so much training you can do; you need to be under the kosh every weekend, playing top level games and it has helped me personally to transition over to the Irish team more easily. The travel is busy but it is all worth it in the end!”

That travel has seen him play each Sunday and then take Monday morning red-eye flights back to Dublin for the past four weeks for Irish sessions.

Now it is time to finally put it all into practice with no margin for error in Cardiff. Wins on Thursday and Saturday bring a World Cup spot; anything else and that is off the table.

“It’s refreshing in a way to not have a group stage, straight knock-out, to focus the mind. You have to win at all costs and there’s no time to build into the tournament so we have to hit the ground running. We can’t afford to start slow. This one has been in the back of our minds for months now and so we’re excited to get going!”

Ireland men’s squad for World Cup qualifiers (club/caps)
Jamie Carr (GK, KHC Leuven, 34)
Mark Ingram (GK, Pembroke, 27)
Tom Cross (Annadale, 22)
Luke Madeley (KHC Leuven, 23)
Lee Cole (Monkstown, 90)
Conor Harte (KHC Dragons, 254)
Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey, 8)
Kyle Marshall (Old Georgians, 7)
Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne, 197)
Sean Murray (captain, KHC Leuven, 85)
Neal Glassey (Crefelder HTC, 67)
Daragh Walsh (KHC Leuven, 58)
Michael Robson (Annadale, 120)
Johnny McKee (Banbridge, 49)
Conor Empey (SCHC, 2)
Sam Hyland (YMCA, 2)
Ben Walker (Braxgata, 42)
Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown, 63)

Travelling reserves
Matthew Nelson (Lisnagarvey, 69)
Kevin O’Dea (UCD, 7)

Head Coach: Mark Tumilty
Assistant coach: Jason Klinkradt
Manager: Neil Irwin
Physical trainer: Eoin Cunniffe
Physio: Cameron Steele
Video technician: Ross Willis

FIH Men’s World Cup 2023 – European qualifier (Cardiff, October 21-24, 2021)
Thursday, October 21: Ireland v Russia, 4pm
Saturday, October 23: semi-final
Sunday, October 24: final/classification matches

** Full tournament information here: https://tms.fih.ch/competitions/1361

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Getty relishing return to Irish setup for World Cup qualiifers

** Erin Getty playing for the Irish U23 side vs Wales this summer. Pic: Front Row Union

Erin Getty is looking to grab her opportunity with both hands at this week’s World Cup qualifiers following her return to the Irish senior women’s panel nearly four years on from her last cap (click here to read more about the squad).

It follows a long and winding road to get back to this level having debuted against Germany in Dusseldorf in April 2017 for the first of her eight caps.

This time around, she is in Pisa a day out from the first of three must-win games with world number 27 side France on the agenda (10.30am, Irish Time – live on www.eurohockeytv.org).

She is one of three players making their ranking tournament debuts alongside Ellen Curran and uncapped Niamh Carey.

“It is a baptism of fire, going into such an important tournament,” Getty said ahead of a cut-throat tournament in which any loss will rule Ireland out of the running for next summer’s World Cup.

“It’s not just for the girls coming in but also important to build on the legacy of what the older girls have created with success in the World Cup and Olympics. We are under no illusions it will be easy. Every match will be hard. We are prepared and focused for France on Thursday.”

Her international journey had begun at lightning speed in the midst of finishing up her A-Levels in 2017, she was catapulted into the senior panel by Graham Shaw.

It marked her out as a potential bolter for the 2018 World Cup with her performances at club level with Randalstown and with the youth international sides.

But a severe hamstring injury left her on the sidelines for nine months and it has proven a long road to get back into the Green Army frame.

“I was really enjoying every moment up until that point,” Getty said from Pisa where Ireland will meet France on Thursday in the first of three must-win games for a place at the 2022 World Cup.

“I came back from that but wasn’t where I needed to be physically and wasn’t in a position to make the step up to the seniors.”

Getty did go on to captain the Irish Under-21s at the 2019 European Championships and the Irish indoor side later that year but, in tandem with her microbiology course at university and the Covid break, it was only this year she felt in the right shape to push for senior selection with the support from Queen’s Sport and their elite athlete programme.

“I took a step away to get to where I needed to be physically to put my hand up to rejoin the squad this summer after Covid.

Erin Getty in action for Ireland in 2017. Pic: Adrian Boehm

“At Easter time, I contacted Dave Passmore to say ‘I think I am where I need to be – if you would like to have me, I would like to be involved again’ with the age group panels.”

Passmore was the national indoor coach and also oversees the Under-23 development programme, making him a key figure in her regeneration.

“There were plenty of difficult conversations along the way about taking a break away from the programme. It has always been open, honest communication with him – he trusted in my ability and I knew where I had to be to get back in.

“He was as excited to see me as I was to see him and everyone in the squad. That helped knowing everyone was behind me and it has been great to have.”

Passmore duly hailed her as the stand-out as Ireland’s development team enjoyed a marquee series win over Great Britain as well as defeating the Welsh senior team.

And it put her in the frame for one of the defensive spots following the conclusion of the Olympic cycle and she is keen to embrace every second.

“I am just really enjoying it. Maybe I am playing my best in recent years but it is just an exciting time with lots of opportunity to grab with both hands.

“It is an exciting time but definitely a transition with the turnaround time for the girls at the Olympics. The time for us newcomers coming in has been quite tight and it hasn’t been a long preparation period but what we have done in a short time has been pretty impressive. We know exactly what we have to do and is exciting to go out and do it!”

Irish senior women’s panel for World Cup qualifiers (club/caps):
Ayeisha McFerran (SV Kampong, Netherlands, 110)
Lizzie Murphy (Loreto, 13)
Lena Tice (Old Alex, 119)
Róisín Upton (Catholic Institute, 86)
Hannah McLoughlin (UCD, 24)
Sarah McAuley (UCD, 6)
Sarah Hawkshaw (Railway Union, 43)
Michelle Carey (UCD, 7)
Katie Mullan (captain, Ballymoney, 203)
Ellen Curran (Pembroke, 24)
Sarah Torrans (Loreto, 31)
Chloe Watkins (Monkstown, 234)
Zara Malseed (Ards, 4)
Naomi Carroll (Catholic Institute, 119)
Niamh Carey (UCD, 0)
Deirdre Duke (Old Alex, 151)
Anna O’Flanagan (Muckross, 217)
Erin Getty (Queen’s, 8)

Travelling reserves
Charlotte Beggs (Ulster Elks, 0)
Jane Kilpatrick (Belfast Harlequins, 0)

Head coach: Sean Dancer
Assistant coaches: Gareth Grundie, David Fitzgerald
Manager: Lisa Jacob
Physical trainer: Claire Brady
Physio: Stephen Brownlow
Video Technician: Mark Kavanagh

FIH Women’s World Cup 2022 – European Qualifier; Pisa, Italy (October 21 to 24, 2021)
Thursday, October 21: Ireland v France (10.30am, Irish time)
Saturday, October 22: Semi-finals / classification matches
Sunday, October 23: final / classification matches