Ireland’s all-conquering women’s hockey team go for gold in the World Cup final

Unprecedented odyssey has even united politicians who can’t agree on anything else

Joyous scenes as hockey supporters at Railway Union Sports Club in Sandymount, Dublin and the Glenside Pub, Churchtown near the Loreto Hockey Club celebrate as Ireland Ladies qualify for the World Cup final. Video: Cyril Byrne / Ronan McCreevy

 

Once more unto the breach - Ireland’s women’s hockey team go for gold in the World Cup final on Sunday in London.

They face the seven times winners of the tournament, Netherlands, who are 7/1 on to win with some bookies. They are full-time professionals and hockey is the national sport for women.

The Irish women are amateurs, but they surpassed expectations and then some by getting to the final - the first Irish team to get to a senior world final in any field sport.

Ireland’s unlikely odyssey to the final, they were the second lowest seed, has united the whole island.

The final comes just 24 hours after the semi-final in which they beat Spain after a penalty shoot-out that went to sudden death.

The DUP and Sinn Féin do not agree on much, but their respective leaders in the North have both tweeted their support.

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted: “Absolutely brilliant result for the Ireland ladies hockey team on reaching the World Cup final. @IreWomenHockey inspiring a generation of young players! #HWC2018”.

Sinn Féin leader in the North Michelle O’Neill tweeted: “What a result for the Irish women’s hockey team reaching the World Cup final. We are all behind you girls”.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald echoed her comments: “It has been said so many times but is still worthy of repetition - the Irish women’s’ hockey team is legend.”

The largest ever Irish audience for a hockey game is expected when RTÉ 1 broadcasts the final from London starting at 4.30pm. The Irish women have bumped Dublin’s Super 8’s match against Roscommon to the RTÉ Player.

Abie Meeke, the mother of Ireland midfielder Ali Meeke, said many of the Irish supporters in London are walking around as if in a daze and expect to wake up and realise that Ireland are not really in the World Cup final.

“It’s find it difficult to find the words to describe how real it is. The place was buzzing last night. It’s rare you hear The Fields of Athenry after a hockey match,” she said.

Mrs Meeke said many hockey federations that expected to be in the final have handed back their tickets and all the Irish fans who want a ticket for the final will be there, though not all were able to book flights and accommodation in time.

Win or lose the team will be coming home on Monday and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Cllr Nial Ring has promised a civic reception for them on Monday or at a later date.

The match can be followed on a liveblog on The Irish Times website, starting from 4.30pm.