Unbelievable scenes as Ireland book their place at Tokyo 2020. Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Epic Scenes

Ireland through to first-ever Olympics after sensational sudden death shootout

Sean Dancer’s side have booked their ticket to Tokyo 2020.

Ireland 0

Canada 0

(Ireland win in shootout after second leg)

THE IRISH WOMEN’S hockey team have qualified for their first-ever Olympics after defeating Canada in a sensational sudden death shootout.

The game ended in a scoreless draw in front of another record attendance of 6,137 at Energia Park, with Ireland showing nerves of steel to edge out a dramatic shootout.

Sean Dancer’s side found themselves trailing the shootout 3-1 at one stage in the shootout, with their Olympic dream slipping away from them.

But they turned it around in amazing fashion with goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran ultimately settling the tie to deny the Canadians in sudden death.

Canada got off to a great start when they converted their first two shots, while Gillian Pinder missed out for Ireland.

Nicci Daly got Ireland off the mark when she scored but the hosts soon found themselves trailing 3-1 when Canada scored from a penalty stroke.

Roisin Upton ran out of time from her effort but from there Ireland rallied as Bethany Barr, Upton and Chloe Watkins all scored to turn the tide.

And it was McFerran’s heroics in goal that sealed their place at the Olympics. Canada tried to delay the celebrations with a video referral for the last effort but they couldn’t deny Ireland the win as McFerran did enough to eat up the required eight seconds to score.

Ireland picked up where they left off in the first quarter as they dominated possession and quickly went on the attack.

But they didn’t control proceedings to the same extent as they did last night as Canada fronted up to the challenge and were a much better match for Ireland this time around.

Playing in far drier conditions, the pace of the game was much higher in this second leg battle, and Sean Dancer’s side were first up to make use of it.

Anna O’Flanagan was in typically threatening form up front and gave the Canadian defence a few problems to deal with in the first few minutes.

After finding herself in some space, she unleashed a long range shot at the goal that was just inches off target. She tried to squeeze through again a few moments later without much success, before taking another shot at goal that trailed wide.

roisin-upton-celebrates Roisin Upton celebrates. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland looked ravenous in those early stages, but Canada fought back this time and their efforts yielded a penalty corner in the sixth minute.

McFerran and company managed to keep that shot out, but the visitors kept coming. Natalie Sourisseau led the charge as she picked up a lot of ball and troubled the Irish defence.

Ireland made an unfortunate start to the second quarter when Deirdre Duke was dismissed from play with a green card. Team captain Katie Mullan thought she had secured a penalty corner shortly after, but a Canada-requested video referral overturned the decision for controlling the back stick.

Disaster almost struck in that period when the ball ended up in the Irish net, but the score didn’t count as it went off an Irish foot on the way in.

But Ireland found themselves under pressure again on the approach to half-time. Canada were awarded a penalty corner, but the hosts used a video referral to reverse the call, claiming the ball did not hit an Irish foot in the circle.

Ireland struggled in the third quarter as mistakes started to creep into their game and passes drifted out of play. 

The Canadians continued to press and they came close when Danielle Hennig curled in an inviting ball into the Irish circle. But they were unable to get a final touch that would steer the ball past McFerran.

Rachel Donohue also tried her luck for Canada coming into the final moments of the third quarter but her high shot sailed well wide of the target.

nicola-evans-with-sara-mcmanus Ireland and Canada played out a tough draw before it went to a shootout. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

O’Flanagan injected some life into Ireland’s cause when she won a penalty corner after just 45 seconds at the start of the fourth quarter. But Ireland failed to make anything of the opportunity as the shot at goal was deflected away.

Canada’s Sourisseau sent Irish pulses racing again when she tried a shot from distance towards the end of the quarter, but her shot went wide of the post.

The visitors came closest to breaking the deadlock towards the end of Q4 with back-to-back penalty corners, with the first one ending up out of play off an Irish foot. Ireland kept the goal clear at the second time of asking and pushed the ball out of play when Canada tried to make something of the rebound.

A shootout was required, where Ireland finally got their hands on an elusive ticket to the Olympics.

IRELAND: A Ferran, R Upton, K Mullan (capt), S McCay, L Tice, B Barr, C Watkins, L Colvin, N Daly, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson.

Rolling Subs Used: L Murphy, N Evans, G Pinder, H Matthews, D Duke, S Barr, S Hawkshaw.

CANADA: K Williams, K Wright (capt), D Hennig, R Donohoe, K Johansen, N Sourisseau, S McManus, A Woodcroft, B Stairs, S Johnston, S Norlander.

Rolling subs Used: A Lee, H Haughn, M Secco, N Woodcroft, K Leahy, R Harris, E Wong.

Umpires: Michelle Meister (Germany) and Annelize Rostron (South Africa).

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