Irish women’s hockey team topple higher ranked nations

Fifth place finish for spirited Irish squad in Hawkes Bay Cup

 Ireland’s Cliodhna Sargent won her 200th cap in New Zealand on Sunday, where the Irish finished fifth in the Hawkes Bay Cup. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ireland’s Cliodhna Sargent won her 200th cap in New Zealand on Sunday, where the Irish finished fifth in the Hawkes Bay Cup. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

 

Ireland rounded off their Hawkes Bay Cup campaign in New Zealand with two fine shoot-out victories at the weekend, over nations ranked above them. Graham Shaw’s side secured a fifth place finish in a tournament in which they were ranked seventh out of eight competitors. It was an especially memorable day on Sunday for Cork Harlequins’ Cliodhna Sargent, who won her 200th cap.

On Saturday, the team produced an improbable win over Korea. Having trailed 3-0 at half-time, Naomi Carroll pulling a goal back 30 seconds into the fourth quarter before Chloe Watkins and Elena Tice levelled the game at the death, scoring within 40 seconds of each other.

In the ensuing shoot-out Irish goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran proved unbeatable while her Korean counterpart Soo Ji Jang was bettered just once, Anna O’Flanagan skilfully making space to slot the ball home to give Ireland a win over the world’s ninth ranked nation.

Sunday’s fifth place play-off against India, who Ireland had beaten 4-0 in the pool phase, went the opposite way, a tight 70 minutes followed by a free-scoring shoot-out.

Ireland took the lead through Deirdre Duke after exceptional build-up play by Emily Beatty and Nikki Evans, but India were level by half-time, and despite a string of short corners for Ireland, the game went to a shoot-out. Chloe Watkins, Megan Frazer, Gillian Pinder and Nicci Daly all converted their efforts, before McFerran saved India’s final attempt to seal a 4-3 shoot-out victory.

Ireland won three of their six games in the tournament, against Korea and twice against India, both nations having qualified for the Olympics. New Zealand beat Japan 3-2 in the final of the tournament while Australia took third with a 3-1 win over China.

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