Match Report. Ireland v Great Britain in Match 2 of SoftCo Series.

Ireland 2 (Watkins, Upton), Great Britain 1 (Unsworth).

The second match of the SoftCo Series in Queen’s University Belfast got underway this evening, with Great Britain bringing a noticeably faster start than the opening of yesterday’s match. However, Ireland remained strong from the off, with Lena Tice making a remarkable on the line save from a well targeted Unsworth shot. McFerran proved to be in strong form in the opening quarter keeping a chance from Rayer from allowing GB to get on the scoreboard, before following up by saving a penalty corner against Ireland shortly after.

The opening quarter held plenty of opportunities for both teams, with Deirdre Duke and Sarah Hawkshaw both finding themselves in the GB circle but failing to secure a goal. GB’s Jones and Ansley also created opportunities for themselves close to the Irish goal, but Jones scuffed her shot while Ansley was defended out. Meanwhile Beth Barr played strongly on the wing creating space and moving the ball up the pitch well.

Colvin and McLoughlin worked well together in the second quarter in midfield. An Owlsey and Robertson attack on the Irish circle resulted in a free out to Ireland. Hawkshaw made herself a nuisance to the GB defence on several occasions but the sides remained level. GB’s Owsley found a gap and went on a long attacking run, McLoughlin followed her and they were met by two more Irish defenders, however the defence resulted in a penalty corner to GB. Toman took the shot on McFerran who saved aptly.

Nikki Evans with possession, passing to Duke who provided Colvin with a real chance on Hinch in the GB goal, however it wasn’t to be and the score remained nil all. Watkins found a gap shortly after and smacked the ball down the pitch, however there was no on hand to receive it and the opportunity passed. A Mullan pass across the GB circle was intercepted by Ellie Rayer who showed serious speed to move it back down to challenge Ireland. GB’s Sarah Evans drove the ball across the Irish goal providing Laura Unsworth a chance to steer it past McFerran to give GB the lead.

A goal down Michelle Carey continued pressing from the left, while Hawkshaw continued from the right, with both intercepted by GB defence in short succession. A chance for Jones again in the Irish circle was scuppered as McFerran deflected out to Tice.

The second half brought high energy from both sides. A Colvin assist to Watkins saw a skilful reverse shot sail past Hinch and hit the backboard for the equaliser. Owsley and McCallin tried to re-instate GB’s lead shortly afterwards, but a McFerran booted the ball out of harms way to keep the sides level. McCay created an opportunity for Duke and Mullan in the GB circle which failed to produce a goal, while GB’s Owsley was kept out of Ireland’s circle by Roisin Upton as the third quarter came to a close.

The final quarter saw Liz Murphy see off a strong challenge from Rayer and Roberston. Nikki Evans secured a lovely play to move back towards the GB circle but was intercepted by Toman. With just over ten minutes on the clock Michelle Carey was given a Green Card, followed shortly after by Shirley McCay receiving a Yellow Card. Despite being two players down Ireland continued to press, with a Watkins attack leading to a penalty corner for Ireland. Watkins’ shot was on target from the penalty corner but Hinch kept the ball out of the GB goal before quickly saving another shot by Anna O’Flanagan.

To add to the drama of the final quarter, a second Yellow Card of the game was given, this time to GB’s Jones. Chloe Watkins providing the assist for Anna O’Flanagan saw O’Flanagan get taken down in the GB circle resulting in a penalty stroke. Mirroring yesterday’s performance, Upton secured another goal for Ireland getting the ball past Hinch giving Ireland a goal lead.

The energy continued in the final minutes of the game with both sides continuing to push each other. However, the final buzzer went with Ireland 2 – GB 1.

Speaking after the match, Captain Katie Mullan said “We’ve never beaten the GB team before, they’re current Olympic Gold Medalists, so to do it on home soil is special. I think the character of the girls, in the second half especially, was second to none and I’m so proud of their performance. 

At international level it’s the fine margins, but we stayed in it and we fought the tough fight in the first half. We came out all guns blazing in the second half, and I think there was nothing going to stop us in that second half. We’re delighted with the win today.”

The third match of the series takes place Tuesday at 15:00, and can be watched live on the BBC Sport NI website, the BBC iPlayer, and the RTE player.

Ireland:  A McFerran, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, B Barr, C Watkins, L Colvin, H Matthews, S Torrans, A O’Flanagan; L Murphy, M Carey, R Upton, H McLoughlin, S Hawkshaw, N Carey, D Duke.

Great Britain: M Hinch, S Jones, S Evans, E Rayer, S Townsend, S McCallin, L Unsworth, L Wilkinson, L Neal, H Pearne-Webb, A Toman; S Robertson, I Petter, L Owsley, F Crackles, G Ansley.