Ireland showed a liking for the Beerschot turf – the venue of their Olympic qualifier – as they ran up three 3-0 wins in training games against France in 48 hours. The first came off the back of a late night flight to Belgium but the players responded well to the short turnaround time in what is their last chance to stake a claim for a place in the Olympic qualifiers’ panel.
In game one, Lisa Jacob (pictured) captained the squad on her 100th appearance for her country and she forced the first corner in the fourth minute but an off course injection saw the opportunity lost. Her side did take the lead in the 11th minute after good work by Niamh Small saw Nikki Evans finish with a reverse-stick strike.
Jacob was again to the fore from the second half restart but her pass to Miriam Crowley was just intercepted at the last by the French goalkeeper. But the UCC woman did get on the mark when she finished coolly after good link up play between Emma Smyth and Small.
And the win was complete in the 50th minute as Audrey O’Flynns initial effort was well saved but Smyth finished the rebound high past the keeper’s glove.
In game two, a similarly convincing 3-0 win followed the same scoring pattern as Lizzie Colvin set up a half-time lead. Chloe Watkins had gone close, displaying great skill to evade two defenders but her reverse shot just skimmed the top of the bar. Ireland’s persistence paid dividends when a Lizzie Colvin strike off the set piece was deflected into the net by a French stick.
They increased the lead immediately after the turnaround. Michelle Harvey’s low drag flick crashed the back board and it was not long before Ireland scored their third, initiated from the back, setting Nicci Daly free to supply a superb pass for Nikki Evans to score.
In Monday’s final game of the series, Ireland attacked from the start with Niamh Small and Aine Connery drawing saves inside two minutes. They took the lead in the 18 minute when after a cross from Nikki Symmons on the right gave Connery an easy tap in to put Ireland one up.
Ireland extended this lead in the 22nd minute when Megan Frazer finished well following good work by Lizzie Colvin.
Michelle Harvey’s corner was saved while another Sargent corner strike was stopped on the line.
Early in the second half, Ireland were 3-0 after great work by Nicci Daly with her Loreto club mate Small finishing at the far post.
Ireland will travel home this evening and Coach Muller will name his squad for the OIympic Qualifier on Thursday, March 1.
Game One: Ireland 3 (Nicola Evans, Miriam Crowley, Emma Smyth) France 0
Ireland (game one): Pamela Smithwick, Nicola Symmons, Cliodhna Sargent, Audrey O’Flynn, Hannah Bowe, Niamh Atcheler, Michelle Harvey, Lizzie Colvin, Emma Smyth, Chloe Watkins, Niamh Small, Shirley McCay, Lisa Jacob, Anna O’Flanagan, Nicola Evans, Miriam Crowley
Game Two: Ireland 3 (Lizzie Colvin, Michelle Harvey, Nikki Evans)
Ireland (game two): Louisa Healy, Nikki Symmons, Sinead McCarthy, Cliodhna Sargent, Lizzie Colvin, Emma Smyth, Aine Connery, Nikki Evans, Chloe Watkins, Shirley McCay, Niamh Atcheler,
Subs: Hannah Bowe, Michelle Harvey, Nicci Daly, Anna O’Flanagan, Megan Frazer
Game Three: Ireland 3 (Aine Connery, Niamh Small, Megan Frazer) France 0
Ireland (game three): Emma Gray, Nicola Symmons, Cliodhna Sargent, Sinead McCarthy, Audrey O’Flynn, Lizzie Colvin, Emma Smyth, Niamh Small, Shirley McCay, Aine Connery, Megan Frazer
Subs: Hannah Bowe, Michelle Harvey, Miriam Crowley, Nicci Daly, Lisa Jacob