Netherlands 6 Ireland 0
A ruthless Dutch performance meant that Ireland’s groundbreaking run to the World Cup final ended with a tough 6-0 defeat to women’s hockey’s outstanding standard bearers.
There was no shame in it. The Dutch, though, were just too good.
It takes nothing away from what has been a spectacular tournament for Ireland, hitting heights they could never dream of, reaching a final of a tournament where getting out of the group represented success.
They have beaten full-time professional sides, ripped up world rankings and made headlines in areas they could never have imagined.
It played out in front of a predominantly green-clad crowd of 10,600 in the Olympic Park stadium including the likes of Aisling Bea, Andrew Scott and Shane Horgan on the bandwagon. Signs abounded for “Pinderella”, an homage to her semi-final heroics on Saturday against Spain in the shootout.
But the Dutch challenge was a step too far. Since world rankings were introduced in 2003, the oranje have been on top for all bar three years and are the current European and World League champions.
This was their eighth world title. Coming into the final, they had won 34 out of 35 games, drawing the other. Their last two tournament meetings both ended 6-0 to the Dutch and they had 29 goals to their name already in this tournament, conceding just three and they showed all of that class in a breathtaking first half.
Irish hopes were given a blow even before tip off, Megan Frazer – who starred in midfield this week – succumbing to a hamstring strain that meant Emily Beatty had to fly in as a last minute replacement.
They put four on the board by the big break, taking just seven minutes to get the ball rolling. Lidewij Welten – the 2017 world player of the year – cracked home from mid-circle, beating Ayeisha McFerran at the near post.
Every Irish attempt to break out was greeted by an orange swarm, meaning excellent tackles from Shirley McCay and Lena Tice were only half the job with Dutch sticks closing in at a break-neck speed.
McFerran pulled a wonderful split-legged save but Kelly Jonker snapped up the rebound for the second goal in the 19th minute and the game was well and truly broken in the minutes before half-time.
Tournament top scorer Kitty van Male cleaned up from the fifth penalty corner before Malou Pheninckx scored the pick of the goals, a blast into the top corner from the right of the circle.
Marloes Keetels added to the pain soon after half-time for 5-0 and Caia van Maasakker's high drag-flick hit the roof of the net soon after.
Ireland were battling hard for everything, Anna O'Flanagan buzzing around and they did have a couple of chances, most notably when Deirdre Duke hit the baseline but her cross was blocked, while Nicci Daly slammed a shot into the pads of Josine Koning.
The final quarter was scoreless, a testament to Ireland’s resilience as their odyssey on the World Cup stage came to a close.
They exited with some tears initially but soon the ever-present and effervescent smiles returned to Katie Mullan et al.
They grasped their medals tight, wrapped themselves in bunting and flags, relishing every piece of adulation they thoroughly deserved from a special tournament, dancing with friends and family on the sidelines.
The players say it may take some time to sink in but the cheers of over 10,000 fans will help them get some sort of idea about what is to come in the next few weeks.
NETHERLANDS: A Veenendaal, L Leurink, X de Waard, C Dirkse van den Heuvel, L Welten, C van Maasakker, F Matla, I van den Assem, L Stam, M van Geffen, E de Goede. Subs: S Koolen, K van Male, M Pheninckx, M Keetels, K Jonker, L Nunnink, J Koning (GK).
IRELAND: A McFerran, N Evans, K Mullan (c), S McCay, G Pinder, R Upton, C Watkins, L Colvin, H Matthews, A O'Flanagan, Z Wilson. Subs: E Tice, E Beatty, Y O'Byrne, N Daly, D Duke, A Meeke, G O'Flanagan (GK).
Umpires: I Presenqui (Arg), L Delforge (Bel)