Shirley McCay’s ‘skipper’ strike gets the ball rolling in Ireland win
Semi-final victory over Czech Republic moves Ireland closer to Olympic qualification
Shirley McCay opens the scoring for Ireland in the FIH Women’s Series semi-final against the Czech Republic at Banbridge Hockey Club. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Ireland 4 Czech Republic 0
Shirley McCay’s trademark “skipper” strike set Ireland on course for a big 4-0 win over the Czech Republic in their semi-final of the FIH Series in Banbridge, putting the Green Army a significant distance down the road to Tokyo.
She broke the deadlock in the 19th minute with a disguised penalty corner strike – the same one that did for the USA in the World Cup – that skipped off the turf to beat both the intended target of Katie Mullan and the defender on the line to clatter in the bottom right corner.
It came after a sticky enough start as the drenched conditions favoured the Czechs whose robust approached stymied Ireland’s more intricate style initially.
But once the lead was in place, Ireland never looked back as Zoe Wilson’s deflected strike put daylight between the sides before Sarah Hawkshaw and a final minute Anna O’Flanagan goal completed the victory.
It guarantees Ireland a direct Olympic showdown in October, achieving their target from this tournament in some style.
For McCay, it was a sweet moment as she considered retirement in the wake of a World Cup silver medal before deciding to rejoin the panel.
“These are moments you relish and play for,” she said. “If I wasn’t involved here, I would be sitting at home watching and kicking myself, regretting it. I took time out, really enjoyed it and now I am enjoying being back.”
Ireland face a final date on Sunday for extra world ranking points, something that could be key in their pursuit of a home draw for the Olympic qualifiers.
Earlier in the day, Eugene Magee netted twice for the Irish men as they started off their FIH Series Finals campaign on the front foot with a 4-2 win over Scotland in Le Touquet, France.
They play Egypt – who beat Singapore 3-0 – in their second group game on Sunday (12.30pm Irish time)
IRELAND: A McFerran, K Mullan, L Tice, G Pinder, B Barr, L Colvin, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke, A Meeke.
Subs: R Upton, C Brown, S McCay, C Watkins, N Daly, S Hawkshaw, E Buckley.
CZECH REPUBLIC: B Cechakova, K Lacina, J Reichlova, A Koziskova, T Mejzlikova, V Novakova, A Lehovcova, A Kolarova, V Decsyova, A Vorlova, N Novakova
Subs: T Holubcova, N Hajkova, K Jelinkova, R Capouchova, N Babicka, M Hlavata, B Brizova.