Women’s EuroHockey Championship
Pool C: Ireland 2 (C Byrne, E Reid) Wales 1 (E Bowen)
Ireland’s Under-21 women produced a remarkable late turnaround to snatch the win they needed to stay in the top tier of the European Championships.
Only victory could save them in Ghent but it looked a forlorn hope with 10 minutes to go as Wales led 1-0 before Caoimhe Byrne and Ellen Reid struck to outdo Eve Bowen’s earlier effort.
The late turnaround saw the Junior Green Army finish in sixth place and sent Wales down along with Scotland.
Coach David Passmore hailed it as an “exceptional effort” as the side backed up Friday’s gritty draw against 2019 champions Spain.
“This group have worked so hard over the past few weeks and although we haven’t been together that long, they came together as a tight group and progressed game on game,” he said.
“Top flight hockey is always tough and you have to ride the roller coaster and this group did that in abundance, finishing strong.”
Ireland held sway in the first half possession and chances stakes but were nervy in front of goal with efforts from Rachel Kelly and Leah O’Shea not fully threatening.
They also found penalty corners – a rich seam of goals this week – hard to come by with the Welsh earning the only set piece of the half.
As time wore on, counter-attacks were looking the more likely route to success and Wales took their big chance in the 45th minute, Bowen’s off-target shot making it in via a defensive stick.
It put Ireland in real jeopardy but they played it well, swapping out goalkeeper Ellie McLoughlin for an extra outfielder, using it well to stretch Wales out wide.
Byrne levelled when Lucy Crowe picked out Mikayla Power in the circle from the left and her great turn and shot was finished off by Byrne.
Wales were under further pressure when Stephanie Beaumont was sin-binned and, with a two player overload, they went in front when Reid – back after an ankle injury – rebounded a penalty corner for 2-1.
They duly held on for the remaining eight minutes to record a vital result and A division hockey in 2024.
Ireland: E McLoughlin, N McIvor, E Paul, S Cole, L O’Shea, S Murdoch, M Power, L Noble, L Crowe, A Horan, K-J Marshall
Subs: E Reid, C Byrne, A Taaffe, R Kelly, A Griffin