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'If you told us before that we'd get to a quarter-final, we'd have bit your hand off'

Ireland look to go one further this evening as their Hockey World Cup dream continues.

TODAY’S THE DAY.

Anna O’Flanagan celebrates her goal with teammates Ireland are in the World Cup quarter-final. Source: Joe Toth/INPHO

Ireland’s remarkable journey at the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup continues as they face India in the quarter-final (6pm, live on RTÉ 2 and BT Sport). Two games away from a place in the World Cup final. Incredible.

They’ve sent waves around London over the last two weeks or so but one must not forget that this is their first World Cup appearance in 16 years. It’s been some story so far.

Graham Shaw’s side — ranked 16th in the world — kicked off their campaign with a massive win, a huge upset which saw them stun seventh-ranked United States with a 3-1 victory.

Sitting top of Group B, the Green Army powered into the last eight with a game to spare after recording a sensational win over today’s opponents India. Anna O’Flanagan’s early goal was enough to send them through to the knockout stages where they now face a repeat of that clash.

There’s been a 1-0 loss to hosts and world number two outfit England since but Ireland still managed to top the group. That’s all in the past now anyway. All focus is on today.

“We’re hungry,” midfielder Roisin Upton told RTÉ Sport. “I think that’s the best way to describe it.

Roisin Upton Roisin Upton. Source: Joe Toth/INPHO

“If you’d told us before the tournament started, ‘You’re going to get to a quarter-final,’ we would have bit your hand off and we would have taken it, but now that we’re here we want to get to the semi-final.

“We’re so excited (for) tomorrow.”

Ireland are the lowest-ranked side of the remaining nations and this is their first-ever Hockey World Cup quarter-final.

“I think we’ve surpassed our expectations so far so it’s about going out and just enjoying ourselves,” Antrim native Zoe Wilson notes.

“We know that’s when we play our best hockey. We’re here to enjoy it.”

She adds of India: “They like a lot of crash balls.

“They’re individually very skillful so we’re going to have to really focus on our one v one defending. I think if we can get those two elements right we’re in for a good day.”

And goalkeeper hero Ayeisha McFerran echoes Wilson’s sentiments:

“We’re confident in ourselves and we know that if we stick to what we can do, keep moving the ball and use our strength, we’ll do fairly well with that.”

Elena Tice and Ayeisha McFerran at full-time Elena Tice and Ayeisha McFerran. Source: Joe Toth/INPHO

India will come into this evening’s clash smelling blood, it must be said. They’re well and truly seeking revenge. They witnessed Ireland as giant-killers first hand, and have had an erratic campaign themselves. They drew 1-1 with both England and the US on top of that loss to the Girls in Green, but turned their fortunes around in the play-off against Italy.

They clocked their first win of the tournament, doing so in emphatic fashion on Tuesday evening as they sailed out 3-0 winners. Peaking at the right time.

Ireland won’t mind that though. They’ll focus on themselves and hope to continue making their mark on history how they know best — by simply enjoying their hockey.

“Who is to say we can’t go the whole way?” assistant coach Arlene Boyles asked RTÉ’s Declan Whooley. ”We have gone over and beyond where we thought we possibly could if we are being honest. Now that we are here, we are thinking, ‘Wow, what an opportunity’”.

“The group of girls we have here, they want to make history. They want to be role models. They want to let people know how important this is to them. I think they are showing that in the way they play and in the way they conduct themselves off the pitch.

“The big thing is now that we are on the big stage, we must stay here. It’s a great foundation. We can’t let this slip.”

This evening’s winners face Spain in the semi-final after they sprung a shock 1-0 win over Germany last night.

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Emma Duffy

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