Ire v Belgium, Women’s Euro Hockey Champs Match Report

Women’s Pool C: Ireland 2 (B Barr, A O’Flanagan) Belgium 1 (Ballenghien)

Hot and humid conditions today in Antwerp saw the Irish Women’s squad beat the hosts 2 – 1 with goals from Bethany Barr and Anna O’Flanagan.

Belgium started strongly, getting the first chance of the game from Boon. McFerran saved well, but Belgium secured a penalty corner shortly after this to keep the pressure on. The shot went wide, although it wasn’t long before Gerniers was back in the Irish circle forcing McFerran out to defend. Shirley McCay was on hand to help protect the Irish goal and prevent Belgium taking the lead. Ireland seemed to come more into their own after this as Nikki Daly chased the ball towards the a poorly defended Belgian goal. D’Hooge ran out to meet her and defended well to prevent Ireland getting on the score board.

The opening goal came 11 minutes in from a penalty corner to Ireland. McCay inserted and Upton deflected back to her. She shot in towards the goal and gave Bethany Barr the opportunity to knock it in nicely behind D’Hooge to give Ireland the lead. The score remained 1 – 0 to Ireland in the opening quarter despite attempts from both sides.

The second quarter saw a string of penalty corners awarded to Ireland but none converted. Belgium continued to fight to get on the scoreboard, with Gerniers slipping the ball to Boon in the circle who had a shot on McFerran who saved well. They continued applying pressure right up to half time, with Ireland lucky in their defence once or twice to reach half time 1 – 0.

Ireland were back with renewed energy in the second half with a number of attempts at the Belgian goal. Picard made her presence felt, frustrating attempts by Mullan and Duke to add to Ireland’s lead. Belgium secured an equaliser before the end of the third quarter, with Gerniers crossing to Ballenghein who slipped it in behind McFerran.

Both sides seemed to bring everything to the last quarter. Weyn’s threatened to give Belgium a lead at one point but she shot wide and the sides stayed level. Bethany Barr and Katie Mullan defended well from a Belgium penalty corner as both sides continued to fight hard in the heat. With 90 seconds left on the clock, Shirley McCay shot into the circle and found Daly who deflect to O’Flanagan to finish. The video umpire was called upon to confirm there was no back stick involved and the goal was granted. Full time, Ireland 2 – 1 Belgium.

Speaking after the match, Head Coach Sean Dancer said, “It was a game we played quite well in. We probably deserved to be another goal up at half time.

“Belgium played really well in the second half; we probably went to sleep in a few areas, so they certainly got back into the game.

“It was really cut-throat to the end, and I suppose for me what was pleasing is that the girls kept fighting and we were good enough to score a goal in the last minute.”

The Women will face Russia in their final match of the tournament at 8AM Irish time, while the Irish Men’s squad plays their final match tomorrow at 14:45 Irish time against Wales.

Ireland: A McFerran, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, E Tice, B Barr, C Watkins, L Colvin, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke

Subs: R Upton, G Pinder, N Daly, H Matthews, E Murphy, S Hawkshaw, A Meeke

Belgium: S Limauge, J Vandermeiren, E Puvrez, L Versavel, B Nelen, A D’Hooge, S Vanden Borre, P Leclef, L Hillewaart J Boon, A Ballenghien,

Subs: A Raye, A Fobe, A Gerniers, E Sinia, AS Weyns, M Struijk, E Picard