Irish Ladies Hockey into Sundays Olympic Qualifier final
Ireland have booked their place in the Olympic Quailfier taking place this Sunday in Belgium – the winner of which will be heading to the London 2012 Olympics. Ireland still have one more pool game to play this Saturday against Belgium whom they most likely also meet in Sunday’s big final.
Ireland got off to an early start with a right wing cross flashing across the Spanish goal but no Irish stick was there for the deflection. Just five minutes later Aine Connery secured Ireland a penalty corner which Audrey O’Flynn powered home for a 1-0 lead. Just 30 seconds later Spain equalised when Malda reverse sticked a rebound to make it 1-1.
Ireland were forced into soaking up a few minutes of pressure but they did so well including a disallowed goal from a Spanish set piece. Ireland settled well after and had a number of goal scoring opportunities including their third penalty corner which O’Flynn dragged home to put her side in the lead once again 2-1 at half time.
Ireland came under pressure once again 40 minutes in when Malda was on hand to take a shot but her efforts went wide and Ireland were let off the hook. Both sides were at times reduced in numbers as the umpires produced the cards. But despite Ireland being on the back foot at times they soaked up the Spanish pressure well with some big tackles to clear the lines.
Captain Alex Speers put away Ireland’s third goal after Symmons and Evans set her to increase Ireland’s lead by two which proved to be vital in the end as Spain rallied with just 3 minutes on the clock to claw it back to 3-2 thanks to their number 8 forcing Ireland to play out a tense final two minutes. Ireland held well and kept their composure and more importantly their 3-2 lead in tact.
Commenting after the match Coach Gene Muller was clearly pleased with the results
“It was a fantastic win for us in a very high pressure match. The players put in a great performance and we got what we deserved. ”
Ireland are now in the final but before that Ireland will play Belgium on Saturday in the final pool game at 6pm Irish time and the final on Sunday at 3.30 Irish time.
Starting XI: Emma Gray; Nikki Symmons; Sinead McCarthy; Cliodhna Sargent; Audrey O’Flynn; Emma Smyth; Emma Clarke; Lizzie Colvin; Lisa Jacob; Alex Speers; Aine Connery
Reserves: Michelle Harvey; Shirley McCay; Nicci Evans; Nicci Daly; Miriam Crowley