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Irish women's hockey team go down fighting against awesome Dutch outfit

The Pool A tie finished 4-0 after a final quarter blitz.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

 Netherlands 4 

Ireland 0

THEIR CLASS AND skill are evident, but spirit is the trait that has given this team a special place in the hearts of the nation.  

The Irish women’s hockey team showed it in abundance once more in Tokyo, keeping the Netherlands to a single goal until the final quarter when the heat took hold. 

It was a frantic start with little respite as the Dutch poured on the pressure in stifling conditions. A superb Ayeisha McFerran left-hand save from a Frederique Matla shot set the tone early on. Ireland would have to be comfortable on the back foot and make any chances count. 

The opening score came after a quick midfield exchange midway through the first quarter left Sean Dancer’s outfit exposed at the back. McFerran committed but could do little to deny 21-year old Felice Albers as she cooly slotted home. It was a timely warning. Even minor mistakes have major consequences against this world-class side.   

hannah-matthews-with-xan-de-waard Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

To their credit, the underdogs responded well and dug in, populating the area in front of McFerran’s goal. The 2018 Hockey World Cup goalkeeper of the tournament was magnificent once again. Roisin Upton and Sarah McAuley linked up well down the left-hand side to bring the action into their opponent’s half.

Deirdre Duke had the ball in the net at the start of the second quarter although it did not count due to an earlier infringement. The Netherlands came close to doubling their advantage from a penalty corner until a full-length save kept them at bay. A perfectly timed Hannah Matthews tackle added to the defensive stand. 

Even when they regained possession, working their way up towards the scoring circle proved a formidable challenge. A determined Duke battled resolutely to give the rearguard a well-earned break and by half-time Albers’ effort was the only difference. 

Ireland gained a player advantage in the third quarter after a green card. Unfortunately, it did not last long. A double-stick Matthews tackle from behind earned her a green card soon after.

Maria Verschoor was denied a goal in the fourth quarter after an umpire referral saw it chalked off due to hitting her foot prior to the finish. Frustrated evidently started to build. Finally, the Irish effort wilted when a penalty corner rebounded to Malau Phennickx who shot past her club team-mate to make it 2-0. 

Goal number three came from Lauren Leurink after some great work on the baseline. A 57th international goal for Matla made it four. Her weak effort from a penalty corner wrong-footed the goalmouth defence.  

“It’s tough to take. We defended really well and I am proud of how everyone kept fighting to the end,” McFerran said in the wake of the tie.

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“I am disappointed, particularly with the last goal and didn’t do myself justice in that one but overall the Dutch showed they are number one for a reason.”

It was a brave effort from the Olympic debutants who continued to work to the point of exhaustion. Next, they play Germany on Wednesday. 

Ireland: A McFerran, C Watkins, S Torrans, R Upton, H McLoughlin, D Duke, K Mullan (C), S Hawkshaw, L Tice, S McAuley, A O’Flanagan

Subs: H Matthews, S Torrans, S, McCay, L Holden, M, Carey

Netherlands: J Koning, S Koolen, M Pheninckx, X de Waard, F Albers, L Welten, C van Maasakker, F Matla, L Stam, J Koning, M van Geffen, E de Goede 

Subs: L Leurink, M Keetels, M Verschoor, P Sanders, L Nunnink

About the author:

Maurice Brosnan

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