Ireland start FIH Series Finals with 2-1 win over Malaysia

Ireland 8 (N Daly (2), A O’Flanagan (4), S Hawkshaw, Z Wilson) Czech Republic (1 J Reichlova)

Irish Women get their FIH Series Final off to Strong Start with 2 – 1 win over Malaysia.

Ireland 2 (B Barr, K Mullan) Malaysia 1 (S Husain)

Bethany Barr put Ireland on the scoreboard early on with a goal in the forth minute, deflected from the penalty corner, on her major tournament debut. The Green Army showed good speed and intensity in the opening quarter, although Malaysia weren’t without opportunity. Strong defence from Zoe Wilson and Shirley McCay kept the score 1-0 to finish the quarter, with Lena Tice, Bethany Barr, and Roisin Upton also playing a noticeable role in Ireland’s strong defence.

A penalty corner early in the second quarter had the crowd silent in anticipation but was shot just wide by Zoe Wilson. Malaysia seemed to come into themselves as the second quarter progressed, putting Ireland under more pressure than the first quarter. A great play from Katie Mullan kept Malaysia out of the Irish circle. Followed shortly after by a nice series of play which saw O’Flanagan and Mullan moving the play back up the pitch between them, although a tough tackle to O’Flanagan prevented any further opportunity here.

Ireland upped the intensity coming into the third quarter. Hannah Matthews and Ali Meeke held a strong presence on the right-hand side of the pitch controlling much of the Irish possession for a period early in the quarter. A chance for Ireland from Mullan to Duke was well saved by Malaysian Goalkeeper Farah Yahya. Although it wasn’t long before Katie Mullan was back threatening shortly after. A nice side-line ball saw Colvin slip pass to Mullan who reversed in to bring the score to 2-0 at 40 minutes. The Irish women were back attacking the Malaysian circle again shortly afterwards, but the next chance for Ireland by O’Flanagan was kept out of the goal by solid Malaysian defence.

The final quarter saw Sarah Hawkshaw as a noticeable influence up near the Malaysian circle. The sun came out at last and the home-crowd support was stronger than ever. A goal for Malaysia at 55 minutes saw a shot deflected to Siti Husain who managed to get it passed Ireland’s McFerran. Ireland missed out on third goal with a chance for O’Flanagan going wide.

Speaking on the match, Interim Head Coach Gareth Grundie said “We’re please to get the first win of the tournament under our belt.

Conditions in the first half meant the pitch was slow so we didn’t have the tempo in the game that we wanted. We had good improvement in the third quarter and were then comfortable until we let them back six minutes to go. The win has put us in a strong position in the group and we hope to build on this performance tomorrow against the Czechs.”

A positive outing for the host nation in their opening match of their FIH Series Finals. The road to Tokyo is long, but it’s underway at last!

Ireland: A McFerran, K Mullan, S McCay, M Frazer, E Tice, B Barr, C Watkins, L Colvin, N Daly, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan

Subs: E Buckley, R Upton, G Pinder, S Hawkshaw, Z Wilson, D Duke, A Meeke.

Malaysia: F Yahya, N Rashid, N Shabuddin, S Ruhani, J Din, N Sumantri, H Onn, S Awang, N Saiuti, N Zulkifli, K Gurdip

Subs: N H Ali, H Aziz, S Mat Isa, F Sylvester, F Sukri, S Husain, N Syafi.