Goal hero Naomi Carroll praises Ireland’s patience in tight win over Scotland
Sean Dancer’s side will now face Spain on Wednesday in a high-stakes encounter
Naomi Carroll celebrates scoring Ireland’s goal with her team-mates during the Women’s Euro Hockey Championships match against Scotland at the Wagener Stadium in Amstelveen. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Ireland 1 Scotland 0
Naomi Carroll saluted her team-mates for remaining calm during their pool game against Scotland at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam on Monday, despite being frustrated by dogged opponents for three quarters of the contest. But no one showed more composure than the Clare woman herself when she slotted home the only goal of the game to give Ireland a vital win.
Having missed a string of chances in the opening two quarters it looked like it might just be one of those days, the kind that Carroll has experienced plenty of times when Ireland were up against supposedly weaker opposition through the years.
“You try to stay patient and hope that the goal will come,” she said, “but there were times in the past when it didn’t come. We stayed calm, though, persevered and got the three points we were after.”
The victory means that hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time remain alive. Ireland’s meeting with Spain on Wednesday will decide which of the two nations reaches the last four, not only giving whoever prevails a shot at a medal but also securing them automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup.
It was a grind, though, against the tournament’s lowest ranked team (Scotland are at 22 in the world list, Ireland at eight), a string of Irish chances going abegging in the opening two quarters, the first after just two minutes when Scottish goalkeeper Amy Gibson smothered Anna O’Flanagan’s effort after she had been set up by Carroll.
Later in the quarter Gibson made a smart double save from Nikki Evans who was making her 200th appearance for Ireland, the sixth player after Nikki Symmons and Cliodhna Sargent, both since retired, and Evans’s team-mates Shirley McCay, Chloe Watkins and O’Flanagan to have reached the mark.
The chances kept coming, Ireland well on top in the first half of the game, but the more they were spurned, the more Scotland grew in confidence, having the better of it in the third quarter when they began to trouble Ireland with speedy counterattacks.
Carroll, though, steadied Irish nerves early in the final quarter after the impressive Sarah Hawkshaw earned her team their fourth penalty corner of the game. Róisín Upton’s drag was blocked but Carroll was first to the rebound, her initial effort saved before she turned her second home.
It was a special moment for the Catholic Institute winger – who played both Gaelic football and camogie for Clare as well as underage soccer for Ireland – having missed almost two years of hockey after sustaining a cruciate ligament injury. This was her 25th international goal in 113 appearances.
Nervy moments followed, not least when captain Katie Mullan was sin-binned, leaving Ireland to see out the final three minutes of the game with 10 players, and hearts were aflutter when Scotland won a penalty corner 30 seconds from time, the resulting shot going just wide of the left post.
They held on, though, Evans recalling a scoreless draw with the Scots in the same tournament, and in the same stadium, four years ago. “A lot of that side from 2017 was there today,” she said. “But Sean [Dancer – the Irish coach] just encouraged us to keep playing, keep playing, keep pushing. We did that and I am really proud of the girls for digging in deep.”
They must now recharge their batteries ahead of that Spanish challenge. There’s plenty to work on too ahead of the game, not least their penalty corners which largely misfired against the Scots, as Dancer conceded afterwards. The prize for getting it right is, though, immense.
IRELAND: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan (capt), S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan.
Subs: L Murphy, M Carey, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke.
SCOTLAND: A Gibson, J Eadie, L Swanson, B Ward, A Costello, S Robertson, C Watson, S Jamieson, E Dark, K Holmes, R Condie (capt).
Subs: N Cochrane, L Campbell, M Bell, F Semple, B Shields, R Collins, F Burnet.
Umpires: S Bockelmann (Ger), I Makar (Cro).