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Ireland earn vital win to close in on World Cup qualification

Naomi Carroll’s 46th-minute goal set up a big victory against Scotland.

Ireland's Naomi Carroll celebrates scoring.
Ireland's Naomi Carroll celebrates scoring.
Image: Frank Uijlenbroek/INPHO

THE IRISH HOCKEY team earned an important 1-0 victory over Scotland at the Women’s EuroHockey Championships in Pool A today.

Naomi Carroll scored the only goal in the 46th minute to provide her side with a major boost, after they began their campaign with a disappointing 4-0 loss against world champions the Netherlands on Saturday.

Attention now turns to another huge game — Wednesday’s encounter against Spain in Amsterdam (11.30am Irish time, live on RTÉ2), where a win will see the Irish side secure a World Cup spot and should put the team through to this competition’s semi-finals for the first time.

Anna O’Flanagan and Nikki Evans both went close for Ireland, while their opponents largely sat deep, offering a threat on the counter-attack.

The goal was struck home at the second attempt by Carroll, after an initial Róisín Upton drag was blocked.

It was a fitting reward for the Cratloe native, who was almost two years out of the international game, suffering an ACL injury, before returning earlier this year.

“I thought we started really well, created chances,” Carroll said afterwards.

“As long as they held us at 0-0, it does get tougher. You try to stay patient and hope that it will come. But there’s times in the past when it didn’t come. We stayed calm, persevered and got those three points that we were after today.”

It was a memorable occasion too for Evans, who was celebrating her 200th Irish appearance, following in the footsteps of Nikki Symmons, Shirley McCay, Cliodhna Sargent, Chloe Watkins and Anna O’Flanagan. 

“To get one cap for your country is a dream come true. To get 200 with some of my best friends, I am incredibly grateful for the memories and to have my parents here today was really special.

“I was surprised to see them — I am not going to lie. I wasn’t sure of their whereabouts or what their plans were but I could spot them today from a mile away in the Monday morning crowd.

“It is as much for my family and friends who have been there along the journey with me and I delighted to share it with them.”

On the match itself, Evans said: “We have experience among the team and a lot of that side from 2017 [that played Scotland] was there today. [Coach Sean Dancer] just encouraged us to keep playing, keep playing, keep pushing. We did that and I am really proud of the girls for digging in deep.”

“Coming into this, we kind of felt it was going to come down to the final pool game,” added midfielder Chloe Watkins.

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“The Spanish are the old enemy for us; they have been on a similar journey as ourselves over the years. They are an incredibly good team and it will be a really tough challenge.

“Again, it will be very different today. They are very skillful and it will take a lot of hard work to break them down but I think if we just do our homework and focus, we’ve had good results against them in the past. But it will take a big effort no doubt.”

Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan

Subs: M Carey, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, L Murphy

Scotland: A Gibson, J Eadie, L Swanson, B Ward, A Costello, S Robertson, C Watson, S Jamieson, E Dark, K Holmes, R Condie

Subs: L Campbell, M Bell, B Shields, R Collins, F Burnet, F Semple, N Cochrane

Umpires: S Bockelmann (GER), I Makar (CRO)

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