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'I was like 'guys, stop'' - Ireland star keeper recalls frantic moments before Olympic spot was secure

The Green Army secured their place at the Olympics after a two-legged battle with Canada.

Joyous scenes as Ireland seal their place at the Olympics.
Joyous scenes as Ireland seal their place at the Olympics.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IRELAND HOCKEY GOALKEEPER Ayeisha McFerran says she’s “lost for words” after her side booked their place at the Olympics for the very first time.

Sean Dancer’s side edged out a gritty Canada side in a shootout that went to sudden death after a two-legged qualifier, with Ireland winning 4-3.

Just as she did at last year’s World Cup, McFerran delivered for her side in the shootout as she produced three crucial interventions to seal the win.

After Roisin Upton put Ireland in front in sudden death, McFerran needed to pull off a save to ensure Ireland’s passage to Tokyo 2020.

And although Amanda Woodcroft’s effort did end up in the net, McFerran did enough to hold her up for the eight seconds that are allotted to get the shot off in a shootout.

“I’m out of breath, I’m not going to lie,” said a beaming McFerran after the sensational victory.

irish-players-celebrate The victorious Irish team. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Fantastic, I’m lost for words. I’m so proud of all the girls – bloody amazing.

“I don’t think I started the shootout well and it didn’t help with all the delays and stuff. But I was able to come back [and] get refocused, which I’m really happy about. I knew the girls were going to score so I just had to do my job and keep a few out.”

McFerran added that the magnitude of what they have just achieved is yet to sink in as they prepare to celebrate a historic achievement for Irish women’s hockey.

“Right now it just seems like another hockey match but I think ask me in 24 hours and I’ll give you a different answer.

We’re just waiting on all the girls coming in. We’ll get a big celebration together and you’ll hear us about tonight.”

On a night when there were several video referrals, Canada used that option again for the final shot in the shootout which delayed the Irish celebrations.

Some of the Irish players had already descended on McFerran before their victory was assured, which made for a few nervous moments before the result was finalised.

ayeisha-mcferran-celebrates Ireland's heroic goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“As soon as I saw there was another referral, I had to separate myself from the rest of the group,” says McFerran of that agonising wait.

“Honest to God, anything can happen. It’s about getting back and being calm again just in case the inevitable happens.

“Thank God it didn’t and here we are.

I was trying to get them off, I was like ‘guys stop, stop.’ But I knew as soon as it went up on the big screen there was nothing there.

“I backed myself, I’m quick and agile and I knew that my skills would hopefully come out on top, and they did.”

Ireland dominated the first leg of their Olympic qualifier against Canada, which ended in a scoreless draw in torrential rain on Saturday night.

The second leg was far more evenly matched on Sunday, as Canada brought a much stronger challenge to Donnybrook.

The 24-hour turnaround certainly presented challenges in terms of recovery, but McFerran was confident that her team could survive the Canada fightback.

“We knew Canada were going to come at us, they had to because we completely dominated the game yesterday. We were very much in control in the first half.

We were under a little more pressure after half-time but we dug deep, our defence won us that and I’m so proud of the girls.”

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