Morgan Treacy/INPHO Shirley McCay collected her 300th cap for Ireland this evening.
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'The girls are used to things like that' - Ireland hold firm in biblical rain
There’s still a ticket to the Olympics up for grabs for the Green Army.

Sinéad Farrell reports from Energia Park, Donnybrook

IRELAND HOCKEY BOSS Sean Dancer praised his charges after a gritty 0-0 draw against Canada in the first leg of their crucial Olympic qualifier.

The Green Army dominated proceedings in Dublin, securing five penalty corners in all, but were unable to break the deadlock in terribly wet conditions.

The torrential rain certainly interfered with the quality of the game, as passes went astray for both sides to disrupt an otherwise enthralling battle.

But Ireland always looked threatening throughout the contest with Olympic qualification still very much in their hands ahead of a 24-hour turnaround for Sunday’s second leg.

chloe-watkins-with-rachel-donohoe Morgan Treacy / INPHO Chloe Watkins in action for Ireland. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“It would certainly be nice to get the win from the first game,” Dancer said after the full-time whistle,” but unfortunately we didn’t get there but as we knew, it was always going to be a tough game and both teams were fighting hard.

We had a good few opportunities in the first half and had the better of it. But Canada had the best of the second so it ended even overall.

“I’ve been really happy with the girls. They’ve been working hard over the last period and my main message was to try and enjoy the game and play the way they want to play.

“We always knew it would be half-time now. Either way, if we had won or lost, we would still be in the game.” 

Remarking on the impact of the inclement weather, Dancer continued:

The girls are used to things like that. The heavy rain was obviously going to slow the field down; nothing anyone could do about that. You do have to put in a different type of game plan. The way the turned out, we couldn’t quite get control in the second half.

“Canada were pressing really well and we were looking for other options. It wasn’t pretty but we will go back and review it and see what we can do.

“In the end, you have to trust the structures you put in place, move the ball well and then get the rewards when you do get to the circle when attacking the 25 and the circle like shots at goal and penalty corners.”

sean-dancer-after-the-game Morgan Treacy / INPHO Sean Dancer with some of his players after the game. Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

While Ireland didn’t pick up a win, it was a historic occasion for veteran player Shirley McCay.

After starting out her international career against Canada in 2007, the Pegassus star collected her 300th cap against the same opposition this evening.

“[It's] very special for her,” said Dancer after her landmark achievement.

“She deserves every cap she has got and is certainly a key part of our team.”

There was further history made in Donnybrook tonight.

The Green Army’s Olympic qualifier attracted a crowd of 6,086, a record attendance for an Irish international women’s international sporting event. The previous record was set at the Ireland rugby women’s Six Nations game against England in the same venue earlier in 2019.

Dancer said the noise of the home supporters drove them on when the rain continued to tumble down.

It was certainly a very good atmosphere; the Irish support was excellent toward the end of the game when we saved that pc [penalty corner] and you could hear that big roar.

“Things like that are what really spur players on.”

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