Women take third in World Cup qualifiers
Ireland may have failed to make the Women's World Hockey Cup, but they did enough to finish third at the qualifying tournament in Santiago, Chile.
In their final match, against pre-tournament favourites Australia, the Irish women played their best hockey of the tournament. Luck wasn't with them -- in the 48th minute, with the score at 1-2, they were pushing hard to equalise when the Australians were given a penalty stroke. This they duly converted. It knocked the stuffing out of the Irish, who had kept themselves in the game with an Alex Speers goal in the first half.
Australia went on to score again, although the 1-4 scoreline did not reflect the quality of the Irish play.
Nikki Symmons, Michelle Harvey, Cliodhna Sargent and Bridget Cleland did well to shut down the Aussie attack, while Lizzie Colvin and Irish captain Eimear Cregan were creating opportunities up front.
Because of the airspace shut-down, the tournament organisers had been forced to alter their schedule. It was not ideal preparation for the Irish, who stumbled to a 0-3 defeat against Malaysia in their opening match; Malaysia was later hammered 9-0 by the Australians.
Against old rivals Scotland, the Irish put up a more spirited display but still lost 0-2. A goal in each half won it for the Scots, who had also had their travel plans disrupted. They still looked the fresher side, with the Irish failing to make the most of their chances, despite winning a number of penalty corners.
For the Irish, the tide turned in their third match when they beat host nation Chile 3-0.
A first international goal from Megan Frazer in the 11th minute steadied the Irish nerves. Sargent put the Irish two goals up in the 28th minute with a beautifully struck short corner hit, while Nikki Symmons made it three from the penalty spot for 3-0 on the stroke of half-time.
Chile made most of the running in the second half, despite the heat, but created few chances and the Irish ran out worthy winners.
p Three teams from Leinster and one from Ulster will contest the Irish Hockey League men's finals weekend at Grange Road in the weekend of May 15. Pembroke Wanderers will play Glenanne, while Corinthian take on Lisnagarvey in Saturday's semi-finals. The deciders are on Sunday.