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'I'd almost want to play again tomorrow to rectify some of the mistakes'

Ireland’s FIH Final Series campaign ended on a disappointing note at Banbridge on Sunday.
Jun 16th 2019, 9:29 PM 5,476 0

Ryan Bailey reports from Havelock Park, Banbridge

IT WAS HARD in the aftermath of such a deflating result to focus on the positives, but once the initial disappointment subsides, Ireland will be able to reflect on a job well done this week.

Once the primary objective of an Olympic play-off date had been achieved on Saturday, Ireland would have wanted to finish off in style here and clinch the FIH Series Final title in front of a sold-out home crowd.

Korea celebrate a goal Korea celebrate their opening goal. Source: PressEye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

But there was to be no perfect ending to an otherwise progressive campaign for the Green Army, who were forced to settle for second place after a shock 3-1 defeat to Korea on Sunday afternoon.  

Korea, ranked 11 in the world, were full value for their victory as they struck three times in the final quarter to stun, and silence, a capacity crowd of 2,000 inside Havelock Park, the majority turning up expecting another exhibition of hockey from Gareth Grundie’s side. 

Ireland had already done the hard work of reaching the final, and with it the important prize of a shot at Tokyo 2020 qualification later this year, but they were picked off by an aggressive Korean outfit, who crashed the party. 

After three scoreless quarters, Hyunji Kim broke the deadlock early in the fourth and then Eunbi Cheon doubled Korea’s lead, before Nicci Daly pulled one back for the World Cup finalists.

With a minute and 15 seconds left on the clock, Ireland were given hope of an unlikely comeback but, in their desperation for an equaliser left nobody at home and Jina Kang sealed a memorable win for Korea.

While it was disappointing to miss out on silverware on home soil, more damaging was the fact Ireland were unable to collect valuable world ranking points in their quest for home advantage in the Olympic play-offs.

“It is devastating to lose but we have to take real positives from it,” Lizzie Colvin said.

“It’s nice to get a really competitive game like that, and it was tight for much of the game. We’ve got to take away and learn from this to build further over the summer.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board and work hard now.”

Overall, it was a hugely encouraging week for Ireland, who scored 26 goals in their five games, while striker Anna O’Flanagan was named player of the tournament for her six goals.

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With interim head coach Grundie in charge, Ireland have developed their attacking game and are now playing an aggressive and expansive brand of hockey, as evidenced throughout this tournament.

Building towards the European Championships later this summer, and then the two-legged Olympic qualifying tie in late October/early November, there is plenty to be excited about from an Irish perspective.

Ireland fans Ireland fans at Banbridge. Source: PressEye/Jonathan Porter/INPHO

“We’re bitterly disappointed not to have finished on a high, it has been an absolutely fantastic week up here in Banbridge, but we just want to bounce back,” Roisin Upton, who had a first-half goal disallowed, said.

“I’d almost want to play again tomorrow to rectify some of the mistakes. We’ll have our homework done and we’re just building. The main thing was to get that Tokyo qualifier secured and when we reflect, we’ll be thrilled to have that.”

Australian Sean Dancer, who was in attendance all week in an observational role, will now take the reins from Grundie as attention turns to August’s European Championships in Belgium.

“We haven’t had too many competitive games since the World Cup but we’re coming into a really busy period now,” Upton continued. “We’ll have a lot to learn from this match.

We’re really tried to focus on attacking play. We were known as quite a defensive team throughout the World Cup and we knew we couldn’t just continue with that as teams would read us quite easily and pick us off. We needed to develop our game as a squad.

Ireland will have a down week to recharge the batteries before preparations for the European campaign, which sees the Green Army face Belarus, England and Germany in pool games, begin in earnest.

“The Europeans are going to be massive for us,” Colvin added. “We want a top-four finish there to get as many ranking points as we can to set us up for a really good playoff match in November. 

“It’s an exciting place we’re in at the moment.”

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Ryan Bailey


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