Ireland make winning start in bid to qualify for 2023 European Championships

Double from Róisín Upton and another strike from Deirdre Duke seal points in scrappy affair

IRELAND 3

POLAND 0

Ireland got their qualifying campaign for the 2023 European Championships off to a winning start at Abbotstown on Thursday evening when they beat Poland 3-0, a double from Róisín Upton and another from Deirdre Duke sealing the points.

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It was, though, a scrappy affair in what was Ireland’s first ever competitive game at the Sport Ireland Campus, Poland proving to be much more doughty opponents than their world ranking of 27 — 14 slots below Ireland — suggested they might be.

Upton, Michelle Carey and Hannah McLoughlin all tested the Polish goalkeeper in the opening quarter, but the breakthrough didn’t come until 19 minutes into the game when Caoimhe Perdue’s quickly taken free found Katie Mullan on the right of the circle, her ball to the near post neatly turned home by Deirdre Duke.

Four minutes later Upton doubled the lead when she slotted a penalty corner into the bottom right corner, but there were no further scores until the final minute of the game when the Catholic Institute player put away another corner for her second goal of the game.

Poland were not without their chances, winning four corners in the course of the contest, but Ireland proved defensively solid, if less than clinical up front.

Ireland, favourites in the tournament, next play second seeds Czech Republic who were held to a surprise 1-1 draw on Thursday by rank outsiders Turkey, a result that should smooth the hosts’ path towards winning the qualifier and booking their place in the European Championships next summer.

Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, M Carey, R Upton, S Hawkshaw, K Mullan (capt), H McLoughlin, L Tice, N Carroll, C Perdue, D Duke. Subs: E Murphy, N Carey, S Torrans, C Beggs, K McKee, E Curran, C Hamill.

Poland: M Kucharska, M Drozda, A Kateria, J Balcerzak, M Rybacha (capt), M Polewczak, S Tatarczuk, W Blaszyk, B Strubbe, N Suszynska, D Mazur. Subs: A Gabara, M Czujewicz, A Szot, D Skoraszewska, K Diurczak, M Pabiniak, P Slawinska.

EuroHockey Championships qualifying tournament (at Abbotstown) Thursday: Czech Republic 1, Turkey 1; Ireland 3 (D Duke, R Upton 2), Poland 0. Saturday: Poland v Turkey, 10.45; Ireland v Czech Republic, 1pm. Sunday: Poland v Czech Republic, 10.45; Ireland v Turkey, 1pm.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times