Two wins from two for Ireland in the FIH Series Finals at Havelock Park as O’Flanagan puts away four goals and Daly does a double. Added to a goal each for Sarah Hawkshaw and Zoe Wilson the Irish Women’s squad were in constant control in a dominating performance of the Czech Republic.
The first chance of the game came from Captain Katie Mullan, but was well saved by Czech Goalkeeper Barbora Cechakova. However, it wasn’t long before Ireland were back in the Czech circle. Mullan managed to deflect off a Czech stick for Nikki Daly to touch the ball into finish to put Ireland in front for an early lead.
A few challenges from the Czech squad occurred in the opening quarter but Ireland remained comfortably in control. Ali Meeke played well to keep the ball out of the Irish circle, passing to Anna O’Flanagan who moved the ball back up into the Czech half.
The first penalty corner of the game went to Ireland, but the Czech defence prevented a goal. Watkins and Colvin played nicely in the middle and helped bring about another chance for Katie Mullan, although this didn’t result in any additions to the scoreboard.
Chloe Watkins won possession on the right wing and feeding the ball to Anna O’Flanagan allowed O’Flanagan to put her first goal of the match away to finish out the first quarter.
The second quarter got off to a similar start in that Ireland held the majority of possession and kept the Czech Republic under constant pressure. Upton and Hawkshaw were strong up the right-hand side to bring the ball back to challenge. Strong defending by the Green Army kept the Czech out of the Irish circle for much of the quarter. Ireland showed impressive ability to switch between three and four at the back as required to counter any Czech attacks. Half-time remained 2-0 with some deserved opportunities for Ireland going wide of the post.
Cechakova managed to save the first Frazer to O’Flanagan attempt but Frazer managed a reverse to O’Flanagan shortly afterwards which Cechakova couldn’t prevent crossing the line. Ireland were straight back to applying pressure with Chloe Watkins an obvious force to contend with in midfield. The next goal of the quarter came when Zoe Wilson managed to get the rebound from Shirley McCay’s free hit which saw the ball dribble past the Czech goalie.
Ireland continued to dominate the game in the final quarter and extended their lead with two goals from penalty corners. Matthews into the circle, Tice with a slap and a goal from Hawkshaw with the deflection for the first. Matthews into the circle again for the second, this time to Watkins, with O’Flanagan for the hat-trick. She went on to secure a fourth goal shortly after with a nice play by Gillian Pinder giving her the opportunity to drive it past Cechakova into the net.
Ireland conceded a late consolation goal from Jindriska Leichova. With McFerran saving the first attempt by Adela Lehovcova, Leichova was able to secure a goal on the rebound. However, a Katie Mullan managed to turn the ball back into the Czech circle giving Nikki Daly the opportunity to get give Ireland back their 7 goal advantage.
Speaking on the match, Interim Head Coach Gareth Grundie said “We showed real intent today and it was good to be rewarded with some great finishing and corner execution.
I was pleased with our overall energy throughout but know this is a stepping stone and our feet are firmly grounded. Our focus remains on the task ahead starting on Tuesday.”
Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, K Mullan, E Tice, G Pinder, B Barr, L Colvin, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke, A Meeke
Subs: E Buckley, S Hawkshaw, S McCay, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews
Czech Republic: B Cechakova, K Lacina, J Reichlova, N Hajkova, A Koziskova, T Mejzlikova, V Novakova, A Lehovcova, A Kolarova, V Decsyova, A Vorlova,
Subs: L Duchkova, K Jelinkova, R Capouchova, B Brizova, N Babicka, M Hlavata, N Novakova