Silver lining

Ireland's fairytale World Cup ends with historic silver as Dutch class tells

The defending champions proved too strong for Ireland, as Shaw’s side finish as World Cup runners-up.

Ireland 0

Netherlands 6

Ryan Bailey reports from the Lee Valley Stadium, London

A SEMBLANCE OF order restored, then, after Ireland had sensationally rewritten the script of this tournament, but there was to be no fairytale ending for Graham Shaw’s history-makers.

Kelly Jonker celebrates scoring their second goal Morgan Treacy / INPHO Netherlands won their eighth World Cup in London. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Win or lose, this truly momentous occasion for Irish sport would forever be remembered as the day a group of part-time amateur athletes broke new ground, fulfilled their dreams and captured the hearts and minds of a nation.

But to pull off the unthinkable and become world champions, Ireland knew they had to save their best performance until last against an unstoppable Dutch outfit, and even then, the odds were stacked against them.

As it was, Netherlands — the defending champions — flexed their considerable muscle in the searing London heat to score six goals past a weary Irish defence, and claim a record eighth World Cup crown.

Ireland, backed by legions of travelling supporters in all four corners of Lee Valley, started positively as they looked to take the game to the Dutch, but were unable to nullify the threat at the other end and were clinically punished.

The first two Dutch goals came from open play when Ireland were twice unable to clear the danger and Ayeisha McFerran was beaten by Lidewij Welten and then Kelly Jonker, who whipped it into the corner off her reverse after the Irish goalkeeper had made a brilliant initial save.

With their athletic and skilful attacking unit finding acres of space in the final third, and the Dutch midfield setting a fierce pace to the game, Netherlands killed off Ireland with two quickfire strikes on the stroke of half-time, before adding a fifth and sixth in the 32th and 34th minutes.

But it’s a measure of just how much this Ireland team has achieved over the last fortnight that there was a feeling of disappointment at the full-time whistle, rather than Shaw’s side simply settling for being part of this memorable occasion.

Chloe Watkins and Sanne Koolen Morgan Treacy / INPHO Ireland's Chloe Watkins in action. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The Dutch were simply too good on the day, but there is so much to be proud of from an Irish perspective, with this group of players embarking on an unforgettable odyssey and bringing the nation along the journey with them.

World Cup silver medallists.

What an achievement, what an adventure.

A seminal moment for Irish hockey, and sport.

An indelible day for everyone privileged enough to be here, as Ireland claimed their silver medals in front of the Green Army, while McFerran was named goalkeeper of the tournament for her heroics throughout.

Ireland’s hopes of upsetting the odds one final top received a blow pre-match when it was confirmed Megan Frazer — a key figure in the Irish midfield — had been ruled out with a hamstring injury, with Emily Beatty flying in as a late replacement.

Shaw retained the same starting XI from Saturday’s semi-final win over Spain, and Ireland showed no signs of nerves or fatigue in the early stages as they looked to take the game to the Netherlands.

But as soon as the Dutch hit their straps, they showed why they are the dominant force in the women’s game and have enjoyed such supremacy at this tournament, firing four goals in before the break.

The Irish players embrace as The Netherlands team celebrates Morgan Treacy / INPHO Ireland ended their magical campaign with World Cup silver. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The period before and after the interval firmly settled the contest and ended any chance Ireland had of getting back into the game, as the Netherlands continued their rampant form to clinically seal the gold medal.

Ireland kept the Dutch scoreless in the final quarter and could have snatched a consolation at the other end as they once again showed their grit and work-ethic, giving everything right up until the final whistle.

IRELAND: A McFerran, N Evans, K Mullan (c), S McCay, G Pinder, R Upton, C Watkins, L Colvin, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson.

Subs: E Tice, E Beatty, Y O’Byrne, N Daly, D Duke, A Meeke, G O’Flanagan (GK).

NETHERLANDS: A Veenendaal, L Leurink, X de Waard, C Dirkse van den Heuvel, L Welten, C van Maasakker, F Matla, I van den Assem, L Stam, M van Geffen, E de Goede.

Subs: S Koolen, K van Male, M Pheninckx, M Keetels, K Jonker, L Nunnink, J Koning (GK)

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