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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


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.

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)

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.


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

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Green Machine cranks out the goals in Scotland

Ireland’s men enjoyed a free-flowing weekend of action with two wins and a draw from their three-game uncapped series against Scotland, netting 12 goals along the way.

In game one, Luke Madeley scored on his return to the Irish senior men’s side as they drew 1-1 at Titwood.

The defender scored a first half penalty stroke – following a series of corners – to give the Green Machine the lead but they were pegged back in the fourth quarter when Rob Harwood finished off after a neat build-up.

Madeley was among a number of players returning to the line-up this weekend having come back to Ireland this month from Belgium with quarantine and study reasons delaying him linking up with the panel.

In Saturday’s game two, all-time top scorer Shane O’Donoghue – another returnee – netted twice in his first appearance of the summer in a 4-1 success. He opened the scoring in first quarter from a low penalty corner strike.

Daragh Walsh forced the next over the line in quarter two and the lead was three at half-time with another O’Donoghue corner shot, flicking this one into the top right corner.

Scotland had slightly more of the game in the second half but Ireland extended the lead via Jeremy Duncan – another of the returnees – from a smart counter-attack. The hosts did get one back in the closing stages via Cameron Golden.

And Sunday brought another goalfest with Ireland winning out 7-4 in a frenzied contest. Shane O’Donoghue ended the tie with a hat trick, making it five goals in two appearances in the competition, starting the rush with a top-right corner flick.

Sean Murray’s low shot made it 2-0 before Gavin Byers got one back. Ireland soon restored their two-goal advantage with a penalty corner finish by O’Donoghue to make it 3-1.

Ireland’s corner defence. Pic: Mark Pugh

The second quarter saw Ben Walker find the net for Ireland at a penalty corner, and then Luke Madeley scored from close range after finding space in the circle, 5-1.

Dan Coultas replied in kind to reduce the gap with a corner goal for 5-2 at half-time and their potential comeback gathered pace via Ed Greaves.

O’Donoghue’s stroke, though, kept Ireland 6-3 clear. Cameron Golden again pegged the Green Machine back but Madeley duly completed the scoring from another set piece to end a rousing tie.

Reflecting on the weekend, Irish coach Mark Tumilty said: “We played some very good attacking hockey in phases over the three games. Very pleased to score 11 goals across the weekend; the squad has made progress and will work hard over the next few weeks in our preparation for the Euros [in August in Poland]. We look forward to the GB EDP series in Lisburn.”

That series will be on at Lisnagarvey Hockey Club with games on August 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th. A week later, Ireland will play their EuroHockey Championship II tournament in Gniezno, Poland.

Men’s senior international series
Scotland 1 (R Harwood) Ireland 1 (L Madeley)
Saturday: Scotland 1 Ireland 4 (S O’Donoghue 2, D Walsh, J Duncan)
Sunday: Scotland 4 (G Byers, D Coultas, E Greaves, C Golden Ireland 7 (S O’Donoghue 3, L Madeley 2, S Murray B Walker)

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Dream start for Green Army in Tokyo with 2-0 win over South Africa

Olympic Games – Women’s Pool A
Ireland 2 (R Upton, S Torrans) South Africa 0

Ireland made a dream start to life as a women’s Olympic hockey team as they got the best of South Africa in their debut on this stage at the Oi Stadium.

Róisín Upton’s powerful low drag-flick in the ninth minute meant they held the lead from the outset, an advantage they eventually strengthened before the end of the third quarter via Sarah Torrans.

“You could see the smiles when we walked out,” Torrans said after the win, scoring in what was her first senior ranking tournament game.

“It was just fun; it was a long day waiting to get out on the pitch and it still feels so surreal. To do it with this group of girls is incredible It is just a pity we can’t do it with family and friends but hopefully we are doing them proud. It is nice to get on the score sheet in the first game; it is what an attacker dreams of and hopefully we can bring that into the next few games.

“Netherlands next, the best in the world. It’s always a fun game but we will come out fighting.”

Ireland got off to a fast start with Torrans and Nicci Daly storming down the right flank. Deirdre Duke’s trickery duly earned the first penalty corner of the match which Upton duly whipped into the left corner past the stick of Phumelela Mbande.

After that, it was a case of when rather than if Ireland would score again as they held the vast majority of the play against South Africa, the lowest ranked side in the tournament at number 16.

Three more corner chances came and went in the first half while Naomi Carroll pinged the post with a rasping shot from close range.

The African champions showed their threat in fits and starts with Nomnikelo Veto the danger player.

But it was the Green Army who always looked the more likely to push on. Torrans missed out from a great chance created by Katie Mullan’s driving run and diagonal ball into the danger zone. Anna O’Flanagan also stung the pads of the goalkeeper and Sarah Hawkshaw chipped one over.

The insurance goal eventually arrived in the 44th minute when Loreto team mates Hannah Matthews and Torrans connected. The former provided the pace on the ball into the circle which saw the ball deflected high in the air and Torrans instinctively batted down and into the net.

After that, there were further corner chances which went incomplete but goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran never looked unduly troubled in a composed defensive outing. Matthews was denied a third by Mbande’s brilliant diving stop but Ireland content to win 2-0.

Ireland next meet the Netherlands on Monday morning (2am Irish time). The Dutch eased to a 5-1 win over India with four second half goals.

** Full tournament details here: https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/hockey/olympic-schedule-and-results.htm

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

South Africa: P Mbande, C Seerane, N Walraven, K Paton, R Johnson, O Zulu, L-M Deetlefs, E Hunter, L du Plessis, Q Bobbs, T Glasby
Subs: E Molikoe, T Mallett, N Veto, C Maddocks, L Mahole

Umpires: E Yamada (JPN), K Hudson (NZL)

Fixture list (times Irish):

July 24: Ireland 2 (R Upton, S Torrans) South Africa 0

July 26: Netherlands v Ireland, 2am

July 28: Germany v Ireland, 4.15am

July 30: Ireland v India, 3.45am

July 31: Ireland v Great Britain, 12.45pm

August 1-6: Knock-out matches

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Junior Green Army finish series on a high

The Junior Green Army signed off on a hugely productive summer with two wins and a draw against their Welsh Under-23 counterparts at Jordanstown.

The series began with a thrilling 3-3 draw in which Ireland led 1-0 thanks to a Hannah Kelly goal but were pegged back by Jess Hill. But the real fireworks were reserved for the last 10 minutes in which four more goals followed.

Siofra O’Brien put Ireland in front but responses from Liv Strickland and Beth Collier had Wales in front with time running out. Laura Foley, though, nabbed an equaliser in the last three minutes.

Game two was a marked difference as Ireland ran up an 8-1 win with doubles from Kelly, O’Brien and Jess McMaster with Sophia Cole and Yasmin Pratt getting the others.

A couple of neat backhand strikes had Ireland 2-0 up inside five minutes and they scarcely looked back with a couple of corner goals moving them into a 5-1 half-time lead.

And the series closed with a 3-0 success, this time Erin Getty, McMaster and Pratt getting the goals.

It concludes a productive week with four wins out of six games against a variety of Welsh line-ups and finishes off their summer schedule in style.

Women’s Under-23 series
Wednesday: Ireland 3 (H Kelly, S O’Brien, L Foley) Wales 3 (J Hill, L Strickland, B Collier)
Thursday: Ireland 8 (H Kelly 2, S O’Brien 2, J McMaster 2, S Cole, Y Pratt) Wales 1
Friday: Ireland 3 (E Getty, J McMaster, Y Pratt) Wales 0

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Where to watch The Green Army at Tokyo 2020

To get behind the Green Army and enjoy all the fanfare of the Olympic hockey tournament, there are a number of ways to watch their journey in Tokyo.

RTE2 will broadcast the Irish women’s hockey team’s Olympic debut as part of their overall coverage of the Games.

RTE – as Ireland’s primary rights holder – will show each of the Irish games LIVE on RTE2, starting with the game against South Africa on Saturday with play getting underway at 1.15pm.

Darragh Maloney and Peter Collins will be the presenters for the coverage with analysis from Gillian Pinder and Kate Dillon. Commentary duties will be from Ger Canning and Des Curran with Sarah Scott providing co-commentary analysis from all five group games.

BBC will have coverage of the competition with Nigel Ringland and Gavin Andrews bringing post-match reaction to each game while BBC Newsline will also carry hockey coverage. Keep an eye on BBC1 and the iPlayer for further coverage information throughout the Games.

For hockey fans keen to catch all the other games in the competition, Eurosport is the official streaming partner for the Olympic Games and will be the hub for all other hockey fixtures.

This service is available online via Discovery Plus at the following link: https://www.discoveryplus.co.uk/olympics/home. This service costs €6.99 for one month’s access. You can cancel this subscription at any stage.

For live scores, the most comprehensive outlet for play-by-play updates is via the Olympic website on the following page: https://olympics.com/tokyo-2020/olympic-games/en/results/hockey/olympic-schedule-and-results.htm

Whilst a match is in play, a number of live statistics will be available throughout the match. By clicking on a live match, you will find four tabs: Starting Line-up, Player Statistics, Team Statistics and Play by Play. More information about what these tabs will provide can be found below.

For even more content, the International Hockey Federaion launched their Daily Tokyo Hokkē Show today. Every day, from 22 July to 6 August, a stellar line-up of internationally renowned guests – including David Harte – from the world of hockey will join host Sarah Juggins, FIH Media Coordinator, for the Daily Tokyo Hokkē Show.

Insights, discussions and debates centred around the hockey competitions playing out at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will delight and engage fans from across the globe, bringing them closer to the story as it unfolds on the pitch.


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