Senior women’s International fixture
Ireland 0 Australia 1 (Emily Hurtz)
A gritty Irish performance fell just short as Emily Hurtz’ (pictured) superbly arrowed shot two minutes into the second half settled the tie.
As befitting a world number five side, Australia played at a lively, sharp tempo but Ireland’s defence – with Sinead McCarthy coming on in the tenth minute for her debut – stemmed any flow of clear chances, especially in the closing half hour.
It was a far cry from last Sunday’s capitulation to India as Ireland rode their luck in the early stages, keeping out a couple of early corners, Cliodhna Sargent saving one off the line.
But they had their moments on the break; one outstanding interchange down the left via Niamh Small, Nikki Symmons and, finally, Emma Clarke’s superb reverse pass opened the space for Small on the left edge.
The Loreto striker was the pick of the forward line but her spectacular aerial flashed just across the face of goal with Julia O’Halloran just missing out on a shoulder-high touch.
Eimear Cregan also slipped just wide after pick-pocketing Kobie McGurk on the 25 but her reverse appeared to catch the hook of her stick to redirect the ball just off course in the 22nd minute.
Kary Chau fired a snap-shot just wide soon after for the hockeyroos while Megan Rivers brilliant break-out slipped just beyond Jade Close’s reach on the edge of the circle.
In between, Small earned Ireland’s only corner of the night but Sargent’s straight shot was comfortably saved.
The killer blow came, though, 100 seconds into the second period when Chau pinged a ball from halfway out to the right sideline where the flying Kurtz cut in unopposed and banged in a stunning low strike.
Beyond that, few chances accrued as Ireland kept the hockeyroos in front of them, blocking the 25. One incision from Hurtz popped Teneal Attard’s way but her batted volley sliced wide and was the last chance to fall Australia’s way in the 45th minute.
And Symmons almost created an equaliser seven minutes from time, flinging a stick to a ball rapidly reaching the endline. Her strike zipped back towards the flick spot but goalkeeper Rachael Lynch’s touch denied two onrushing attackers.
Speaking after the match, coach Gene Muller said: “We were composed and calm in possession today and were defensively well organised. I was pleased with the overall performance and we created some good chances. I felt Sinead McCarthy had a very good international debut.”
Ireland play again on Friday evening at 6pm before facing the Australian’s in their third and final test on Saturday at 4pm.
Ireland: E Gray, M Harvey, C Sargent, E Cregan (capt), E Clarke, B Cleland, S McCay, A Speers, A O’Flynn, E Smyth, N Small
Subs: L Jacob, J O’Halloran, N Symmons , S McCarthy, N Evans
Australia: R Lynch, K Walker, A Flanagan, M Blyth, S Liddelow, K McGurk, F Johnson, E Hurtz, J Taylor, F Boyce, K Chau
Subs: M Rivers, J Close, K Jenner, T Attard, A Korner