Women’s Senior International Challenge match
Ireland 2 (Michelle Harvey, Anna O’Flanagan) Canada 1 (Hannah Haughn)
Ireland’s senior women bounced back from Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Canada to level the series with the decider set for Tuesday evening (7.30pm, Belfield).
Darren Smith’s team showed a more ruthless streak and were tougher in the 50-50 battles to breach the Canadian press more frequently, helping set up the win.
From a lively early start with Chloe Watkins found Anna O’Flanagan buzzing in the circle and Ali Meeke breaking down the baseline, they won a couple of corners and eventually went ahead in the 33rd minute. O’Flanagan was again the instigator as her mazy run beat four Canadian players. Her reverse effort was saved high by the goalkeeper but the danger meant a penalty corner ensued.
With seconds left on the clock Michelle Harvey stepped up from the back to give the Green Army a 1-0 lead from a pin-point drag flick low to the keeper’s right.
Canada made the brighter start to the second half, clipping a shot over the cross-bar and forcing Grace O’Flanagan to smother well from a tight angle. They won their third penalty corner nine minutes after the restart after an Irish breakdown on the half way line.
The ensuing set piece was again well saved from O’Flanagan, and minutes later Ireland replied by winning a corner after good work from Lisa Jacob on the right forced a stick-chop.
Harvey’s flick was saved but Watkins did well to win another. This time Harvey made no mistake as her low fling found Anna O’Flanagan flying in from the left to touch home.
At 2-0 down, Canada enjoyed their best spell with Ireland struggling to maintain possession. From a couple of corners, O’Flanagan saved well while another dangerously into the face of Niamh Atcheler before the rebound found the back of the net with Hannah Haughn the scorer.
Atcheler received a nasty gash on her forehead for her troubles and took no further part in the game. Canada also had a chance to level when they forced the ball onto Kate Dillon’s body on the line. Grace O’Flanagan, though, saved the resulting penalty stroke, a vital intervention in securing the win.
And Ireland went close to extending the margin as Deirdre Duke and Emily Beatty looking particularly effective going forward, the latter finding Nikki Evans who shot just wide of the upright with minutes to go.
Coach Smith was happier with his side’s performance but still felt improvements need to be made: “It was a better performance from the girls today, with increased energy through the game. I’m pleased to be able to introduce other players to the series and be confident they can perform.
“Tuesday’s decider will be a tough game, where we will need to fix our mistakes to win the series.”