Penalty decision key as Ireland downed

Women’s hockey World Cup Qualifiers – day seven
Ireland 1 (Alex Speers) Australia 4 (Hope Munro 2, Nicole Arrold, Shelly Liddelow)

Ireland produced a strong showing but ultimately closed out their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 4-1 defeat against the mighty Australia. The scoreline, though, was flattering to the hockeyroos but was good enough for Ireland to hold on for bronze with Scotland beating Chile 1-0.

The game’s main turning point, though, came in the 48th minute when Bridget Cleland was adjudged to have nudged over Shelly Liddelow with a penalty stroke the harsh outcome.

Nicole Arrold duly converted to end an Irish uprising which had seen Alex Speers reduce an early deficit and the side dominate proceedings either side of the half-time break.

It knocked the stuffing out of an Irish side that were at their most threatening and pushing hard for an equaliser.

Liddelow added a fourth late on to copper-fasten her side’s place in the showpiece event next August.

Early on, Hope Munro had put the Australians in the driving seat, deflecting home two well-worked corner routines. But Speers responded in kind with a similar effort, switched her way by Audrey O’Flynn from Ireland’s first corner.

And the greens were performing well, shutting down the Australians usual fast-paced attacks with Nikki Symmons, Michelle Harvey, Cliodhna Sargent and Bridget Cleland performing admirably.

Harvey saw one effort blocked down while Lizzie Colvin and Eimear Cregan were prominent in attack as Ireland controlled the start of the second half.

But during this period, a Cleland nudge in the circle on Shelly Liddelow was deemed worthy of a penalty stroke and Arrold netted the game-breaking goal

For Ireland, it ended a tough tournament with positivity over performance but disappointment with a harsh final scoreline.

Speaking afterwards, captain Eimear Cregan was pleased with the resilience shown after a tough opening to the tournament.

“It was an excellent performance today from the whole squad, really committed, work rate was really high. I don’t think the score reflected the game, we were in it for large patches and we started the second half brilliantly and played them off the park. The tactics worked to a tee and we grew in confidence as the game went on.

“At 2-1 down, we were in the ascendancy but the umpire gave the stroke which made it a lot tougher to get going. We played good hockey throughout, though, and showed what we can do.

“In circle play, there’s always going to be nudging and pushing from both players. We think it’s harsh but you have to go with the umpire’s decision.”

With Scotland beating Chile 1-0 in the tournament’s final game, Ireland ended the competition in third place.

Ireland: M Goode, M Harvey, C Sargent, E Cregan (capt), E Clarke, B Cleland, L Jacob, A Speers, N Symmons, E Smyth, L Colvin
Subs: S McCay, J O’Halloran, M Frazer, A O’Flynn, N Small

Australia: T Cronk, C Eastham, K Walker, A Nelson, A Flanagan, K Hollywood, M Blyth (capt), S Liddelow, N Arrold, K McGurk, T Attard
Subs: F Johnson, S Joseph, H Munro, A Korner, C Messent

Final standings (points, goal difference): 1. Australia 12pts (+18) 2. Scotland 9pts (+7) 3. Ireland 3pts (-5) 4. Chile 3pts (-9) 5. Malaysia 3pts (-12)

* For more of HockeyPress Argentina’s photos from Ireland’s game with Australia, click here. For the live match-tracker from the game, click here and for interviews to download and listen to with Gene Muller, click here and with Eimear Cregan, click here.

Partners of The Hook