Ybarra corner strike enough for Spain

Senior Women’s International challenge match: Ireland 0 Spain 1 (R Ybarra)
Ireland fell to a 1-0 defeat in the first of their three-match series against Spain at Belfield tonight as Rocio Ybarra’s 17th minute goal did the damage.

At the time, it gave Spain a deserved lead when she swept home the first penalty corner of the game, capping a fine opening quarter from the visitors. But the hosts improved thereafter with the lively Niamh Small twice drawing the best of substitute goalkeeper Isabel Barguno in the second half while Chloe Watkins (pictured) was also a tricky presence.

The UCD student’s interchanges with the over-lapping right back Nikki Symmons offered a strong outlet, drawing plenty of joy down the channels, earning a couple of corners before the interval.

The second was well struck by Cliodhna Sargent with the rebound popping out to Julia O’Halloran off Maria Lopez de Eguilaz but she slashed at the sharp chance and it spun wide.

In between times, Lizzie Colvin went off with a worrying looking ankle injury in the 31st minute, coming just a day after Gene Muller named his final 18 for the European championships which start in 15 days.

He will hope it is not too serious nor will there be any sustained damage to Sinead McCarthy and Michelle Harvey who both took bumps from the typically aggressive Spanish visitors.

Prior to the break, Ireland had another decent chance when Lisa Jacob stole the ball on the left flank and squared for Alex Speers but Pilar Sanchez got in a brilliant tackle before the skipper could get the shot off.

It was a preview of an improved second half performance though Pamela Smithwick had to be wary when Raquel Huertas was found all alone at the top of the circle by a long ball.

Symmons and Small combined to create the girls in green’s clearest shooting opportunity for the latter, forcing Barguno into a low block a minute after her introduction between the posts.

Small got hold of another sighter six minutes from time, Barguno this time going full stretch to save, as Spain sat deep. Vigilance to the counter was required with Sargent picking off a notable tackle while Smithwick crucially got a boot in ahead of Barbara Malda from Huertas’ cross.

Spain, though, kept the chances against them to a minimum and took the win, greeted to plenty of noise by a large contingent of Spanish students in the city studying English to whom the team paid suitable tribute on the final whistle.

This was the first of five warm-up games Ireland play this month, getting back in action tonight at 7.30pm, again at Belfield.

Ireland: P Smithwick, M Harvey, C Sargent, E Smyth, A Speers, S McCay, L Jacob, S McCarthy, A Connery, N Symmons, L Colvin
Subs: C Watkins, N Small, J O’Halloran, A O’Flynn, M Crowley

Spain: M Lopez de Eguilaz, J Menendez, R Ybarra, B Bonastre, M Prat, B Malda, R Huertas, P Sanchez, G Comerma, G Oliva, S Munoz
Subs: P Dabanch, A Flores, O Pineiro, B Perez, C Petchame, M Garcia, I Barguno, L Riera

Friday, August 5: Ireland v Spain, 7.30pm
Sunday, August 7: Ireland v Spain, 12pm

Partners of The Hook