As it happened: Ireland v Spain, Women's Hockey World Cup semi-final

Could Graham Shaw’s side add another chapter to their magical campaign and reach the gold medal match?

Good afternoon and welcome along to our live coverage of the Women’s Hockey World Cup semi-final between Ireland and Spain from London’s Lee Valley Stadium.

Graham Shaw’s history-making squad, starting the tournament as the second-lowest ranked side, have defied every expectation and all odds during a magical run to the last four, and are now on the cusp of a place in Sunday’s gold medal match, with heavyweights Netherlands and Australia going head-to-head in the other semi later.

After group stage wins over India and USA sealed a direct passage through to the quarter-finals, Thursday’s thrilling shootout win over India catapulted Irish hockey to rarefied heights and has seen this team — a group that has rebounded from previous near-misses to seize their opportunity in seismic style — enter the nation’s sporting conscious.

Spain, ranked 11th in the world, will provide another formidable hurdle but with their no-pressure, no-excuses mantra, Ireland go into this afternoon’s semi-final brimming with the confidence and belief this historic odyssey has engendered.

Can Ireland write another memorable chapter in their 2018 World Cup campaign? The action isn’t far away now, and we’re following it all live from 2pm.

After Thursday’s defeat of India, there have been frantic efforts to get hold of tickets for this afternoon’s semi-final tie here at the Olympic Park in London, with thousands of Irish fans again expected to make up a large portion of the crowd.

The support the team has received from family and friends and the wider Irish diaspora in London has been well documented and with RTÉ again carrying live TV coverage, as well as live commentary on Radio 1, hockey fever has truly gripped the country over the last fortnight.

Zoe Wilson, Deirdre Duke, Roisin Upton and Elena Tice celebrate at fulltime Joe Toth / INPHO Joe Toth / INPHO / INPHO

But this hasn’t been a fluke, this has been years in the making. After the agony of missing out on the Rio Olympics by the width of a post (those shootout demons were exorcised on Thursday, anyway), Shaw has forged an enviable bond within the dressing room and a winning culture despite the programme being horribly under-resourced and the players having to dip into their own pocket to represent their country.

What has put the achievement of reaching the semi-finals in a first World Cup appearance in 16 years in even greater perspective is that Ireland have brought some of the sport’s traditional powerhouses to their knees on an amateur footing, bridging the gulf in resources by way of their passion, grit, determination and never-say-never attitude.

Whatever happens this afternoon, Irish hockey has well and truly been put on the map — both at home and abroad — by a group of players who have sacrificed everything to reach this stage and have embraced and savoured every moment of the journey — through the ups and downs, through the highs and lows — to achieve their full potential in front of the watching world.

But as Thursday’s shootout hero Chloe Watkins stressed, they are not quite done yet and just 60 minutes stands between them and a meeting with Netherlands or Australia, where, quite remarkably and scarcely believably, the World Cup title will be on the line.

As expected, there are large swathes of green inside the Lee Valley Stadium and the Irish voices are making themselves heard as the teams convene down below us in the tunnel area.

Ireland’s coach, Graham Shaw, is already in position in the dugout. Here we go!

A rousing rendition of Ireland’s Call rings around the London Olympic Park, and we’re all set. Ireland to get us underway.

FIRST QUARTER: We’re underway.

Q1 13.00 – Both sides understandably trying to settle into the occasion in the early exchanges. Electric atmosphere inside the ground.

Q1 12.00 - First bit of space for Chloe Watkins down Ireland’s left flank, and she feeds the ever-willing Katie Mullan, who drives it into the circle and it comes off a Spanish foot. Penalty corner Ireland.

Q1 12.00 – GOAL! Ireland 1-0 Spain 

What a start, and it’s Anna O’Flanagan again! She brilliantly deflects the penalty corner home and the Ireland lead after just three minutes of this semi-final.

Q1 10.00 - A dream start for Ireland and it all came off another expertly-worked PC, with Shirley McCay slapping from the top of the circle and O’Flanagan applying the clinical finishing touch.

Q1 9.00 - With temperatures nearing the 30 degrees mark at pitch level, Shaw is rotating his midfield and forwards regularly in the early throes of this last four tie. Ireland have brought a ferocious tempo early on, forcing Spain to look long for their forwards.

Q1 8.00 - Ireland have done all the early running, with the left flank proving to be particularly rewarding. Watkins, Mullan and now Deirde Duke have found space on that far side and are looking to get at the heart of that Spanish defence.

Q1 7.00 - These two sides know each other inside out at this stage having faced off 26 times in the past five years. Spain, ranked 11th in the world, have the edge on the head-to-head having won 13 times to Ireland’s nine.

Q1 4.00 - Another penalty corner Ireland! Gillian Pinder drives into the circle after some good work from Evans down the left, and it comes off a Spanish foot.

Q1 4.00 – Close! Meeke is the receiver this time and is forced to slightly readjust but gets her shot away, forcing Maria Ruiz into a smart stop after O’Flanagan looked for another deflection. Ireland on top but it’s tense in London!

Anna O’Flanagan Anna O'Flanagan's early goal separates the sides. Joe Toth / INPHO Joe Toth / INPHO / INPHO

Q1 1.00 - Spain pushing for an equaliser late in the first quarter and it’s the first time real questions have been asked of the Irish defence. Shaw’s side initially do well to avert the danger before the ball flashes across the face of goal, prompting a collective sigh of relief from everyone in green.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: Ireland 1-0 Spain

And that’s it for an absorbing first quarter, with O’Flanagan’s deflected effort from McCay’s PC handing Ireland the advantage at the Lee Valley Stadium. Gripping stuff.

Q2 15.00 - After a quick word from Shaw and a chance for the players to get some fluids on board, we’re back underway in the second quarter.

Q2 10.00 – Ireland are weathering a bit of a storm at the moment as Spain enjoy a period of dominance. The ball is fired into the circle and Mullan’s outstretched stick deflects it past McFerran and into the top corner but there a no own goals in hockey. Ireland are standing firm, just.

Q2 8.00 - Ireland’s goal is living a charmed life. Spain are really pushing and probing now, but McCay rock solid as usual wins the turnover free for Ireland to bring it clear. The Irish support respond as they try and lift the team.

Anna O'Flanagan celebrates scoring their first goal off a penalty corner Ireland celebrate their goal. Sandra Mailer / INPHO Sandra Mailer / INPHO / INPHO

Q2 6.00 - Shaw looks concerned on the touchline, and rightly so. Spain have come firing out of the blocks in this second quarter and are getting closer. On that occasion, Salvatella shot through her legs just wide of the far post.

Q2 5.00 - Ireland have dropped deeper and deeper, with Spain applying a high press and making it difficult for them to bring it clear. Shaw and his assistants are barking instructions to ‘step out’. Five minutes remaining until the half-time break.

Q2 4.00 - Despite Spain dominating possession and territory in this second quarter, Ayeisha McFerran has yet to be really tested in the Ireland goal and another big defensive intervention helps ease the pressure momentarily.

Q2 2.00 - That’s better from Ireland. They retain possession down this near side through Watkins and the ball eventually finds its way to Duke on the edge of the circle, with the UCD forward firing a reverse into the side board from a tight angle.

Q2 1.00 - The Ireland fans cheering every tackle as if it’s a goal, which just about reflects how this second quarter has gone. Shaw will be relieved to get his troops in at the break with this lead in tact.

Q2 1.00 - Less than a minute to play in the half, and Duke forces the penalty corner after another marauding Evans run. This could be a big moment…

Q2 1.00 – Saved! Hannah Matthews slaps from the edge of the circle but the Spanish goalkeeper is equal to the task.

HALF-TIME! Ireland 1-0 Spain

Ireland did brilliantly to weather the storm in that second quarter and they lead at the half-time interval in London courtesy of Anna O’Flanagan’s strike. Shaw’s history-makers are 30 minutes away from a World Cup final!

Anna O'Flanagan scores their first goal off a penalty corner The game's big moment so far. Sandra Mailer / INPHO Sandra Mailer / INPHO / INPHO

Q3 15.00 - We’re back underway in London. How are the nerves?

Q3 13.00 - Penalty corner Ireland! Shaw’s side on the front foot from the off as Mullan wins the PC as she looks to cut it back from the byline.

Q3 12.00 - The ball eventually finds its way into the Spanish goal but the whistle had already gone for a foul by a green shirt.

Q3 11.00 - This time it’s Spain who win the PC, as Carlota Petchame feeds the ball inside and the final shot strikes Matthews’ foot. Ireland have reviewed this as they feel the ball was lifted above Matthews’ knee…

Q3 11.00 - And they’re successful in overturning the decision on the grounds of dangerous play. Spain yet to have a PC.

Georgina Oliva and Nicola Daly Georgina Oliva and Nicola Daly in action. Sandra Mailer / INPHO Sandra Mailer / INPHO / INPHO

Q3 7.00 – GOAL! Ireland 1-1 Spain

It was coming unfortunately. Spain’s pressure eventually tells as Ireland are unlocked down the right and Alicia Magaz is left in all sorts of space to finish past McFerran from close range.

Q3 2.00 - Ireland are really on the back foot now but are boosted when Meeke draws the stick tackle from Lucia Jimenez and the Spanish player is shown a green card. Spain down to 10 for the next two minutes.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Ireland 1-1 Spain

It’s on a knife-edge. We’re level heading into the final 15 minutes, with a place in tomorrow’s gold medal match on the line. Magaz’s effort has cancelled out O’Flanagan’s early strike for Ireland. Which way is this one going?

Zoe Wilson Ireland's Zoe Wilson. Sandra Mailer / INPHO Sandra Mailer / INPHO / INPHO

Q4 15.00 - We’re back underway and the Irish support are off their seats again, doing their best to get their side across the line.

Q4 12.00 - On the restart, Ireland commit too many numbers up front and are left a little exposed at the back, but Magaz’s reverse was well off target. It’s tense.

Q4 8.00 - Spain are doing all the pressing. Ireland living dangerously but also possessing a threat on the break through Mullan, Duke and O’Flanagan. Eight minutes left.

Q4 7.00 – The tension inside the ground is unbearable. The Irish fans doing their best to inspire a late surge from their side, but the green shirts look out on their feet having produced another big shift.

Q4 5.00 - Spain have really targeted Ireland’s right flank and have a good bit of joy down that left side with Magaz proving a real nuance. Ireland working hard to produce a late rally.

Q4 2.00 – Close! Ireland have come alive again and after being under the pump for large periods of the second half, have regained their composure to manufacture a couple of half chances, the latest of which fell to Duke but she was closed down by the goalkeeper.

Q4 2.00 - Oh my lord, the tension is unbearable. Ireland look to have won a PC after enterprising work from Mullan on the edge of the circle and the umpire is going upstairs to get a second opinion…and a PC is awarded for a Spanish foot inside the circle!!

Q4 2.00 - Matthews with the injection, the ball is struck goalwards and it comes off the Spainish goalkeeper before a goalmouth scramble ensues and Spain, somehow, manage to clear. So close!

Q4 1.00 - Into the final minute of this semi-final. We’re still locked at 1-1….

FULL-TIME! Ireland 1-1 Spain

We’re going to a shootout again…

Alicia Magaz celebrates scoring their first goal Magaz celebrates scoring Spain's equaliser. Sandra Mailer / INPHO Sandra Mailer / INPHO / INPHO

So, Shaw will select his five penalty takers and it looks like it will be Pinder, Upton, Watkins, Meeke and O’Flanagan for Ireland. Can Ayeisha McFerran be the hero again?

Ireland will take the first penalty of this shootout. Deep breathes everyone, deep breathes…

Here we go…Gillian Pinder is first up.

SCORES! Pinder keeps her nerve to give Ireland the advantage in the shootout despite serious pressure from Maria Ruiz in the Spanish goal. Spain have referred it for a suspected stick tackle, but the goal stands!

Begona Garcia is first up for Spain and her effort goes WIDE after McFerran closed down the angle. Advantage Ireland.

Anna O’Flanagan next up for Ireland and she dribbles it onto her reverse before colliding with the Spanish goalkeeper, with the umpire penalising the Irish forward for a stick block. She immediately reviews the decision and the video umpire orders a retake.

O’Flanagan again takes it onto her left side before dribbling back onto her open side, but the angle is too tight and her attempted lift over the ‘keeper goes wide. It remains 1-0 Ireland.

McFerran SAVES from Beatriz Perez and there’s a huge roar from the stands. Ireland hold the advantage after two penalties each.

Roisin Upton steps up for Ireland but after working the yard of space for herself, shoots wide of the far post. Sweet mother of divine this is hard to watch. Ireland lead 1-0 in the shootout.

Spain are level as they take the direct approach and Olivia converts with a powerful finish past McFerran. 1-1 after three penalties each.

Meeke is up next but her effort is weak and the goalkeeper easily deals with it, pushing the ball away to safety. The momentum now back with Spain.

McFerran pulls off a fine save to deny Spain and now it’s Chloe Watkins for Ireland!

She scores!!!!! Brilliant from the midfielder again as she shows great composure to produce a classy finish under the most tense of circumstances. Ireland lead 2-1.

But Lola Riera produces an unbelievable finish up and over McFerran with an audacious finish. We’re now into sudden death, with the order changing. That means Spain go first…

McFerran SAVES from Spain’s captain Georgina Oliva! Gillian Pinder has the chance to send Ireland through to the World Cup final.


Gillian Pinder holds her nerve to score the decisive penalty past Ruiz. Unbelievable scenes in London.

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