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'We weren’t going to give up this again' - Ireland hero rejoices after scoring in sudden death drama

Chloe Watkins showed nerves of steel to help her side secure Olympic qualification.

Ireland prevailed after an epic shootout to defeat Canada.
Ireland prevailed after an epic shootout to defeat Canada.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Updated at 09.48

IRELAND’S CHLOE WATKINS says she felt confident before scoring a crucial goal in a sudden death shootout victory which sent them through to their first-ever Olympics.

There was drama in Donnybrook as the hosts held their nerve to defeat Canada after their second leg qualifier ended in another scoreless draw.

Ireland made a poor start to the shootout and found themselves trailing 3-1, with Canada just one goal away from snatching the Olympic dream from Sean Dancer’s side.

But the Green Army rallied to win 4-3 after sudden death, with Watkins coolly converting her opportunity 

“I was trying to block out everything and what was at stake,” said Watkins about her mindset during the shootout, “think about just what I had to do.

“We had looked at the goalkeeper a little bit and I was confident enough going up and thankfully it went well and everyone else’s went well.”

chloe-watkins-celebrates Chloe Watkins punches the air with delight. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ireland encountered shootout agony in their previous Olympic qualification campaign. They missed out on a ticket to Rio after losing to China in 2015, and Watkins says that horrible memory entered her mind when the same scenario unfolded against Canada this time around.

When we found ourselves in a shoot-out, it was here we go again. Flashbacks from 2015 were coming into my head – there was no way we were going to leave it out there again. The game was tighter than we thought.

“Things never play out as you plan but we had so much heart, so much belief in ourselves and weren’t going to give up this again.”

Saturday night’s first leg of the qualifier ended in a 0-0 draw, although Ireland were unlucky not to come away with something on the scoreboard. 

Ireland were far less dominant on Sunday night as both sides had their chances to score throughout the four quarters of normal time.

Watkins says they didn’t expect the second leg to end without any goals, but she adds that Ireland had prepared for the possibility of a shootout.

“We didn’t anticipate two scoreless draws, that’s for sure. We had talk about shoot-outs and we had to cover all bases. You really learn from those tough experiences.”

With that frantic finish behind them, Ireland can now prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Naturally, Watkins is still trying to process this euphoric moment, but she’s also got one eye on Ireland’s ambitions at the Games next year.

When you say it, it’s not even real. It’s completely surreal. We’re just over the moon, a dream come true and we now want to go for that medal in Tokyo.”

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