Women’s EuroHockey Championship, Pool A
Netherlands 4 (L Leurink 2, C van Maasakker, F Matla) Ireland 0
Katie Mullan says Ireland “know the rollercoaster of tournament hockey” and take a lot from their opening women’s EuroHockey Championship tie, falling 4-0 to an imperious Dutch side.
A double from Laurien Leurink along with goals from Caia van Maasakker and Frédérique Matla did the damage for the world number ones – who have lost just once in their last 100 fixtures and are reigning World, Euro and Pro League champions – who showed their class in spades.
Nonetheless, captain Mullan said it was a far cry from the 6-0 meeting when Ireland last met the Dutch in 2018’s World Cup final.
“I think anyone who watched both those games will see the improvement in us,” the Green Army captain said of the performance. “There’s a few little things defensively where we get caught as a full team; those are the moments where they dominate and score and that’s where the Dutch are so clinical.
“But there were times we really did have control, held the ball well and were able to accumulate passes. We’re in a good place going into the Scottish game.”
It was Ireland’s first competitive fixture since the 2019 Olympic qualifiers, enough time for Amsterdam restrictions to be lifted enough to allow over 3,000 fans to attend. With the happy hardcore music reverberating around the Wagener Stadium, Mullan added it was a great way to get back into action.
“That was an incredible atmosphere; when you have had two years out of international hockey, what a way to come back to tournament hockey, playing the Dutch in Amsterdam in a packed stadium. It was all orange and we really enjoyed it!
“How do you prepare a youngster for that?” she added, referencing the tournament debuts for UCD pair Hannah McLoughlin and Michelle Carey.
“We tried to build them up for it all week and I’m very proud of them; they did incredibly well and enjoyed it too. That’s the most important thing for them too; for your first 10 caps you have free reign. You just go out and enjoy it, getting up to that pace. I’m almost jealous they got to do it against the Dutch in that atmosphere.”
As for the game, Margot van Geffen had fired the first warning shot inside 45 seconds but the Green Army responded quickly. Some sweet interplay at the head of the D saw Mullan pick out Anna O’Flanagan and but for the faceguard of goalkeeper Josine Koning, Ireland would have had a shock lead.
The Dutch, however, capitalised on a loose defensive clearance in the ninth minute as Laura Nunnink pinched possession and drew a penalty stroke from Róisín Upton. Caia van Maasakker – in her 200th appearance – netted from the spot.
Moments later, Leurink got on the end of Felice Albers’ pull-back from the right and Ireland were two behind.
Ayeisha McFerran’s big boot limited the damage from a couple of Dutch corners but she could not keep out Frédérique Matla’s powerful corner as the hosts extended their lead to 3-0 by half-time.
The scoreline was compounded by a nasty head injury sustained by Lizzie Holden but she was thankfully able to take her place in the stands after being withdrawn from action.
Ireland were more compact in the third quarter with Hannah Matthews picking off numerous defensive interventions and McFerran sharp between the posts.
The fourth goal, though, did arrive with Leurink credited with the last touch after a goalmouth scramble. Ireland wanted to call for a video but the umpires deemed the request too late and so it was not referred upstairs.
Nonetheless, with Shirley McCay and Deirdre Duke also making bit blocks, Ireland were content to take the positives and head into Monday’s date with Scotland (11.30am, Irish time, on RTE2) in upbeat mood.
“We know for sure they will be a completely different team from the one we saw in Belfast a few weeks ago,” Mullan said of that challenge having run up two wins over the Scots recently.
“They have strong players and we will learn a lot from watching them play Spain. We know we have to control the game and the pace. If we take the energy we brought out there today against the Dutch, add a few more things to it in terms of our attack and we will be in a good place come.”
Ireland are back in action on Monday at 11.30am (Irish time) against Scotland before finishing their group on Wednesday against Spain.
Netherlands: J Koning, M Pheninckx, L Leurink, M Keetels, C van Maasakker, F Matla, P Sanders, L Stam, M van Geffen, E de Goede, F Albers
Subs: S Koolen, M Verschoor, L Nunnink, S van Gils, I Kappelle, P Dicke, A Veenendaal
Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan
Subs: M Carey, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, L Murphy
Umpires: L Delforge (BEL), S Bockelmann (GER)