The Green Army cruised to the World League 2 title in Kuala Lumpur in front of a larger crowd than previous matches.
Ireland 3 ( O’Flanagan, Mullan, Wilson)
Goals from Anna O’Flanagan, Katie Mullan and Zoe Wilson sealed the victory for Ireland in a game dominated by the Irish. Head coach Graham Shaw said “The performance tonight was outstanding. We played a very attractive style of hockey and it was very enjoyable to watch, played in front of a huge home crowd.”
Mullan and O’Flanagan hinted at what was to come as they both burst into the circle more than once in the opening 5 minutes while drawing saves from Farah Yahya in the Malaysian goal, who has to be credited with keeping the final score at just 3-0. The Green Army played simple, blisteringly fast paced hockey that left the Malaysians floundering at times. The opening goal came courtesy of a Chloe Watkins sweep to an unmarked O’Flanagan at the back post who gladly added to her goal haul for the tournament: 12 in total earning her the awards of Player of the Tournament and Top Goalscorer. Two minutes later and against the run of play Malaysia were awarded a stroke and the game looked set to be tied, but Nuraini Rashid sent the ball wide. Mullan doubled the lead in the 10th minute as she released a rocket on her reverse from the top of the circle, while surrounded by several defenders, that left the keeper no chance; the Malaysian stats list the shot as reaching 100km/hr. The score could have further doubled before the half time whistle with 14 circle entries for the Irish but credit to the Malaysian defence who piled numbers behind the ball while Yahya made several more saves. Ayeisha McFerran had little to do but when called upon she was in commanding form, making a superb high diving save from a Malaysian penalty corner. Such saves justly contributed to McFerran being awarded Goalkeeper of the Tournament having only conceded 1 goal throughout the entire tournament.
The second half continued as the first had ended with Nicci Daly and Gillian Pinder accelerating at the Malaysian defence at will. Zoe Wilson got the scoring underway once more via a penalty corner. Wilson’s initial shot from the top of the circle was blocked by the first runner but showing great composure she followed the bobbling ball and drilled it into the net. One of the chances of the half arose when Wilson aerialled the ball to Carroll high up the pitch who drew the defender to set Mullan up on the reverse but the final shot just ricocheted off the post.
The final score of 3-0 brings Ireland’s goal tally for the tournament to 39, 10 goals more than higher ranked Italy. It’s very much a case of job done for Graham Shaw’s team as they now look towards World League 3 and the Eurohockey Championships this summer.
Reflecting on the tournament Shaw said “We have had an incredible experience and, have grown and learnt a lot as a group. This is our first competitive tournament in 18 months and we’re very proud of the team and the level of performance”.
Looking to the months ahead, Shaw continued “We have exciting times ahead with World League 3 and the Eurohockey Championships. We’ll use this tournament as a benchmark going forward. Our number 1 goal is to qualify for the World Cup and finish as high as possible at the Europeans in August.”
Squad: McFerran, Matthews, Evans, Mullan (Captain), McCay, Tice, Watkins, Colvin, Daly, O’Flanagan, Wilson.
Subs: Cassin, O’Byrne, Sargent, Carroll, Pinder, Upton, Barry.