The Ireland Women’s national hockey team have qualified for the 2022 Women’s FIH Hockey World Cup after winning the European qualifier for the upcoming tournament on Sunday.
Sean Dancer’s 18-women side beat France, Belarus and Wales to secure their place in next year’s competition that will be held in Spain and the Netherlands in July.
It will be the second World Cup appearance in a row for the Irish Women’s team after earning the silver medal in 2018’s instalment.
Anna O’Flanagan’s brace helped Ireland to edge the Welsh in the final and finish the qualifier in first, taking the sole World Cup spot on offer.
O’Flanagan fired home the winner with 11 minutes to go in Pisa and Sean Dancer’s ladies held out to progress, as they had done in the semi-final against Belarus.
Their defensive efforts proved the difference as the national side conceded only four goals in the qualifier, with high-scoring Belarus the only side to put two past goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran.
O’Flanagan finished joint-top of the pile on the scoring charts with four goals while rookie Niamh Carey scored two in Ireland’s first two games on their way to World Cup qualification.
“This was a defining moment for us,” captain Katie Mullan said after the match. “To make sure that it wasn’t just a one era team and to make sure that it was the future of hockey in Ireland, the future of the Green Army, and we’ve really backed that up by ensuring that we go to a World Cup next summer.
“The margins are so fine, but I’m just so proud of this group. It’s such an incredible group to be a part of, and yeah, we’re gonna go now and prepare and do as best [as] we can and work incredibly hard over the next year.”