Ireland 3 USA 1
The biggest game in their careers to date saw Ireland’s women produce their biggest performance as Deirdre Duke’s breakaway double sent Ireland to the top of their World Cup group in London.
Almost to a woman, Ireland’s Call was greeted with smiles and laughs, a relaxed façade. And any hidden nerves for their first ever game of this magnitude were scarcely in evidence in a dreamy first 12 minutes.
First, Róisín Upton bashed a 70-metre pass all the way through to Deirdre Duke who steadied before rounding Jackie Briggs and firing home.
Gillian Pinder was upended for what should have been a stroke but the lesser penalty of a corner was awarded. No matter, Shirley McCay slapped home from the top of the D for a 2-0 lead.
The bubble was burst just before the quarter-time break from a very smart US corner move; Margaux Paolino touching in at the right post from Michelle Vittese's dummy-shot.
The US game is built very much around work rate and an aggressive press. While it yielded lots of turnovers in dangerous places, the space left in behind meant Ireland always had a chance on the break.
Katie Mullan should have taken a cross from Ali Meeke first time with the goal gaping while the Americans bashed the crossbar in an erratic, end-to-end battle.
The pattern continued in the second half and, again, Ireland countered in blistering – if controversial – fashion. A US corner was deflected wide and as they prepared to have the restart umpire Michelle Meister pointed the other way. Nikki Evans took off on a gallop down the right wing with Duke alone in the middle. Once delivered the ball, she took her time before smashing through Briggs's defences.
From there, it was all about bravery, sticks and bodies keeping the Americans at arm's length with Zoe Wilson imperious. Ayeisha McFerran's spectacular diving save from Caitlin van Sickle was a key moment, closing it out 3-1.
It puts Ireland top of the group following Olympic silver medalists England’s 1-1 draw with India and a win next Thursday against the Indians will guarantee progression.
IRELAND: A McFerran; Z Wilson, H Matthews, S McCay, R Upton; G Pinder, C Watkins, L Colvin; K Mullan, N Evans, A O'Flanagan
Subs: Y O'Byrne, M Frazer, L Tice, N Daly, D Duke, A Meeke, G O'Flanagan
USA: J Briggs, M Gonzalez, M Vittese, J Funk, A Magadan, J Young, L Moyer, A Froede, K Sharkey, C van Sickle, A Manley
Subs: E Matson, S Fee, A Hoffman, N Woods, T Vittese, M Paolino, L Blazing
Umpires: K Hudson, M Meister.