Ireland turn their attention to trying to finish fifth in EuroHockey Championships

Ireland will most probably have to do what they have never done before – beat England in a major tournament

Ireland’s Sarah Hawkshaw during Wednesday’s draw with Spain at the EuroHockey Championships in the Netherlands. Photograph:  Frank Uijlenbroek/Inpho

Ireland’s Sarah Hawkshaw during Wednesday’s draw with Spain at the EuroHockey Championships in the Netherlands. Photograph: Frank Uijlenbroek/Inpho

 

Having missed out on reaching the semi-finals of the EuroHockey Championships for the first time after Wednesday’s draw with Spain, Ireland must now turn their attention to trying to finish fifth in the tournament, a placing that would secure them qualification for the 2022 World Cup. That effort starts on Friday morning (10.30am) when they take on England, before they conclude their campaign on Saturday afternoon (3.30pm) against Italy.

Scotland complete the four-team pool but because they have already played Ireland the result from that game is carried forward – Ireland, then, are on three points having beaten the Scots 1-0 last weekend. England, though, hold the advantage on goal difference thanks to their earlier 4-0 win over Italy.

Both England and Ireland will expect to win their final games, the English taking on a Scottish side ranked 17 places below them, while the Italians are nine adrift of Ireland in the world list. So a draw against England would more than likely leave Sean Dancer’s side needing a hatful of goals against Italy, a sizeable ask for a side that has scored just two in their three games so far.

Ireland then will most probably have to do what they have never done before: beat England in a major tournament. In fact in their eight previous European Championship meetings Ireland did not even manage a draw, their last competitive result of note against their old rivals a draw at the 1994 World Cup in Dublin.

Midfielder Sarah Hawkshaw, who was not born until the year after that particular game, acknowledges the difficulty of the task, but is confident Ireland can rise to the challenge. “We have had a good few battles in the past few months against GB, we played some good hockey, and most of the girls from that squad would be in the England squad.”

“We do need to look at ourselves and our performance from that Spanish game. England are a good team, have a good defensive structure and work really hard. We have to move them, show for the ball, give good options, get the ball to our high strikers. But it is a situation England haven’t been in before, so we take that as a positive.”

Equaliser

Indeed if Ireland’s morale was left rock bottom by that Spanish draw, England’s will not be in great shape either after the concession of a Belgian equaliser 90 seconds from time on Wednesday saw them fail to reach the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time ever.

This then will be their maiden experience of needing to finish fifth, Ireland’s placing last time around. Whoever misses out will have to play in a World Cup qualifying tournament later in the year.

Spain, meanwhile, take on Germany in the first of Friday’s semi-finals, with the Netherlands, seeking their third European title in a row, meeting Belgium for a place in Sunday’s final.

Both of Ireland’s games will be shown live on RTÉ News Now and the RTÉ Player.

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