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The Ireland women’s hockey team were denied a European semi-spot by a single goal on goal difference.
Women’s EuroHockey Championships
Ireland 1 (R Upton) Spain 1 (B Garcia)
Ireland’s World Cup qualification hopes remain on hold as Spain kept them at arm’s length, denying them the win they needed to reach the EuroHockey Championship semi-finals for the first time in Amstelveen.
Roisin Upton’s early goal had Ireland flying high but a Spanish equaliser from Begona Garcia meant honours even and, ultimately, Sean Dancer’s side miss out on the semis by a single goal on goal difference.
The two sides – ranked seventh and eighth in the world – have been the most regular sparring partners on the world stage, both rising rapidly in the rankings. Ireland won the last big date at the 2018 World Cup semi-final and while the normal time outcome was the same this week, it was the Spaniards who got to celebrate.
The Green Army got off to a dream start, Naomi Carroll tearing down the right channel to draw a penalty corner. Her Catholic Institute club mate duly finished off the set piece, a bullet drag-flick into the bottom corner.
Spain – bronze medalists at the World Cup and 2019 Euros – are on a similar upward curve like Ireland and quickly showed their wares, picking off accurate long-range passes to press Ireland back.
From their first corner, they were back on terms in the 12th minute. It was a slick piece of work, a stepover gifting Maria Lopez time to pick out Begoña Garcia at the injector’s spot and she swept home from close range.
It became an absorbing contest after that with Spain enjoying the majority of the ball and looking to press on while Ireland went into a counter-attack mode. It meant precious few chances between the second and third quarters with the greens not overly troubled during spells down to 10 players to a couple of green cards, likewise Spain when Lucia Jimenez went to the sin-bin.
Ayeisha McFerran got a strong stick to deny Lola Riera just before the end of the third quarter, keeping the tie very much up in the air for a high octane final 15 minutes.
Lopez’s heavily deflected shot clattered off the post and fell invitingly for Hawkshaw to start a brilliant counter which culminated in Anna O’Flanagan earning Ireland’s second corner. Shirley McCay’s shot, though, was well dealt with by the Spanish defence.
Spain – who only required a draw – continued to push forward, keeping Ireland at arm’s length as Upton produced some heroics to clean up a huge Spanish chance while McFerran swept up three more chances.
That golden opportunity never accrued for Ireland and means they will now contest Pool C where four teams will battle it out for the one remaining World Cup spot from this competition.
It does mean, however, the Green Army will have to play a European qualifier in 2022 if they are to compete on this stage again in 2023.
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: M Carey, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, L Murphy
Spain: M Ruiz, C Petchame, M Lopez, B Iglesias, L Riera, J Pons, B Garcia, X Gine, B Perez, G Oliva, L Jimenez
Subs: L Barrios, B Bonastre, C Mejias, A Torres-Quevedo, A Magaz, P Alvarez, M Garcia
Umpires: L Delforge (BEL), I Amorosini (ITA)