Irish women win away from OQT final

Athlon Car Lease FIH Road to London Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Ireland 5 (A O’Flynn 2, E Smyth 2, C Sargent) Mexico 0

Second half doubles from Audrey O’Flynn and Emma Smyth finally got Ireland over the hump of world number 30 side Mexico as they eventually ran out 5-0 winners against the minnows at the women’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Kontich, Belgium.

A third successive win, it means an Irish win on Thursday against top seeds Spain will guarantee a final berth on Sunday for the one Olympic place on offer. Hosts Belgium defeated the Spaniards with a second minute goal to put a huge dent in their plans.

On a day when Nikki Symmons became Ireland’s most capped player, surpassing Eimear Cregan’s mark of 171, the Mexican win was not a pretty one. Ireland endured a sluggish 35 minutes, unable to get past Mexican netminder Ahidee Castillo who had been beaten 12 times against Belgium two days earlier.

Four penalty corners were shut out while numerous other chances slipped by with little by way of Mexican response. But the goals began to flow after ten minutes of the second half when former UCC woman O’Flynn flicked in a short corner for the all-important lead. And it eased the Irish tension as they added four further goals in the last ten minutes through Smyth, O’Flynn and Cliodhna Sargent.

The late glut was kick-started when Cristina Correa was yellow carded for a physical tackle on Emma Clarke in the 59th minute while Mexico also subbed their impressive keeper for number two Selma Flores.

For the second, Nicci Daly earned a free just outside the circle to set the move in motion and, after a goalmouth scramble, Smyth reversed into the net from six yards to give Ireland breathing space. After good work from Alex Speers, earning a corner, O’Flynn made it three when her initial drag was saved but she buried the rebound. Smyth got her second from a second phase penalty corner two minutes later and, in the final minute, Sargent made it 5-0 with a rare goal from open play.

After the game, Irish Coach Gene Muller said: “It was generally a frustrating match for us we found it hard to create goal scoring chances in the 1st half but we were more fluid and clinical in the second half. There are only three teams left that can win the tournament and our next two games are critically important.”

** Photo courtesy of Stanislas Brochier

Ireland: P Smithwick (GK), C Sargent, E Smyth, E Clarke, N Evans, A Speers, S McCarthy, A Connery, N Symmons, A O’Flynn, L Colvin
Subs: L Jacob, M Harvey, N Daly, S McCay, C Watkins

Day three results: Ireland 5 (A O’Flynn 2, E Smyth 2, C Sargent) Mexico 0; Belgium 1 Spain 0; Russia 3 France 2
Standings: 1. Belgium 9pts (+17) 2. Ireland 9pts (+12) 3. Spain 6pts (+7) 4. Russia 3pts (-6) 5. France 0pts (-6) 6. Mexico 0pts (-24)

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