Defeat to England leaves Ireland facing October qualifiers
Ireland will now likely contest an eight-team qualifier in October for a World Cup ticket
Sarah Evans celebrates scoring for England during their European Hockey Championships win over Ireland. Photograph: Koen Suyk/Inpho
Ireland 1 England 5
Another uneven performance from Ireland hurt them even more than in their last three games at the European Championships in Amsterdam on Friday.
Aside from a strong opening phase Ireland chased England, who were more offensive and sharper around the Irish goal, Ayeisha McFerran having to watch as five England strikes went past her.
Ireland will look back and see where the damage was done in their campaign and that was against Scotland, where the team managed just one goal against a side ranked 22nd in the world to Ireland’s eighth.
For the Irish team that played in the final of the 2018 World Cup in London, it now looks very likely that a playoff series next October will decide if they even appear in the 2022 World Cup. England must be beaten by Scotland and Ireland produce a big-score win over Italy, an unlikely scenario.
It was disappointing because Ireland began so brightly when Anna O’Flanagan cracked a ball from the right and Deirdre Duke, stretching and sliding, deflected Ireland ahead after 13 minutes.
But in the second quarter England shattered Ireland’s plans, when they picked up pace and accuracy and Ireland failed to respond. Instead misplaced passes and a devastating penchant for giving the ball away cheaply had England snarling around McFerran’s patch.
In a nine-minute spell in the second quarter, they struck three times and Ireland were never allowed back.
Anna Toman cracked in a penalty corner from England’s second set piece before Lily Owsley’s run along the backline delivered to Sarah Evans. It was Evans again just before the break to make it 3-1 when she volleyed her second for an England side running out of sight.
Giselle Ansley added to the Irish gloom when her goalbound shot deflected from an Irish stick beyond McFerran on 42 minutes for 4-1 before Toman struck again with just over a minute remaining in the match for a 5-1 rout.
“We started really well, building really good possession and going for it,” said Ireland’s Lizzie Holden. “The wheels came off in the second quarter and they gathered momentum. That was the difference and there are just such fine margins in the Europeans. It spiralled out of control but we still put in a really good shift and I am proud of the girls’ work-rate.”
Ireland have not beaten England in almost 30 years but at least will know what they must improve in the short space of time they have in the build up to the Tokyo Olympic Games in July, where England, ranked five in the world, are the current champions.
IRELAND: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan. Subs: Z Malseed, M Carey, M Frazer, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, L Murphy.
ENGLAND: M Hinch, L Unsworth, S Evans, A Toman, S Townsend, E Rayer, G Ansley, L Owsley, G Balsdon, I Petter . Subs: E Burge, E Sanders, L Neal, J Hunter, C de Ledesma, F Crackles, S Heesh.
Umpires: I Amorosini (Ita), S Wilson (Sco).