** To vote for The Hook and help its bid for funding from The Arthur Guinness Projects, click the image below; you can vote once a day
Women’s TriFinance EuroHockey Championships
Ireland 0 Netherlands 6 (Maartje Paumen 2, Ellen Hoog 2, Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, Kitty van Male)
An injury hit Ireland were put to the sword by the Olympic champions who produced a comprehensive second half showing to sweep past the world number 15s in the final game of day one of the women’s TriFinance EuroHockey Championships.
Indeed, it was a tough outing as Megan Frazer was rested in anticipation of playing on Sunday against Belarus. But with Alex Speers rolling her ankle, Shirley McCay requiring stitches to a facial wound and Anna O’Flanagan hobbling off, it leaves the physio Eilis Dolan with plenty of work to do to get players back in action.
The Dutch found the going a little sticky in the first half as Ireland sat deep and defended bravely. Nikki Symmons took a Maartje Paumen drag off the line from the first corner while Eva de Goede’s trio of corner shots did not work out but the dominant Dutch attacking play led to plenty more chances.
From their fifth corner, Paumen found the roof of the net with a beautiful flick for 1-0 in the 27th minute. Kelly Jonker went close moments later while Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel was blocked by an amazing Emma Gray save with her helmet to keep the minimum in the half-time gap.
Gray was backed up by a couple of top Cliodhna Sargent saves early in the second period, scooping one out of the goalmouth and taking another drag off the line.
But the last 20 minutes was totally different as Ellen Hoog popped home a second in the 52nd minute to double the lead as Ireland’s legs began to give with their forward and midfield rotation becoming less and less frequent.
Paumen made it 3-0 after a neat exchange of passes with Hoog initially saw Gray save but the ball squirmed behind her for the waiting midfielder to tip in.
Kitty van Male swept home the fourth in the 59th minute before Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Hoog’s second of the game closed out the win in the latter stages of the contest.
For Darren Smith, he believed his side struggled as time wore on after a compact defensive performance for the opening 50 minutes.
“We actually did some good things, especially in the first half, and we also did well early in the second half. But the accumulation of not having the ball and a fair amount of negative running meant we ran out of legs in the final 20 minutes.
“There’s a lot to be relatively happy with but when you play Holland, who are the best in the world, if you’re not on it for 70 minutes, you will have some problems.”
On the injury front, he says O’Flanagan’s injury is a “long-term thing” but is being managed. McCay’s split chin should not see her out of action while Speers and Frazer could also be back on Sunday for the game against Belarus.
“Alex Speers rolled her ankle and the initial fright is usually most of the problem [with those injuries] and then they settle down so we’ll check on her tomorrow morning.
“Megan Frazer has a slight frontal fissure injury and we didn’t want to put her through a match where it could flare up when its healing quite nicely.”
Emma Smyth on facing up against Maartje Paumen and Eva de Goede in midfield: “Interesting! We knew what we were coming up against, the gold medalists from the Olympics. It was always going to be tough with a lot of running trying to catch up with the ball and when we did get it back, it was hard to push players forward because we had run the legs off ourselves.
Emma Gray on facing down the fastest drag-flicks in women’s hockey: “I knew nothing about it! We’ve done a lot of work with Nigel Henderson with a lacrosse stick along with the two girls on the line who have a lot of practice and, to be fair, they’ve back me up pretty well today.
“It is the first time I have face Paumen. I played the Dutch once before and she wasn’t playing. The best we can do is to try and mimic it.
Emma Gray on whether the tournament proper starts now for Ireland? “Absolutely, the Dutch was a challenge for us. We wanted to see how we could perform but, at the end of the day, it was getting our systems right for tomorrow and Tuesday.”
Ireland: E Gray, A Speers, S McCay, N Carroll, N Symmons, A O’Flynn, C Watkins, N Daly, N Atcheler, A O’Flanagan, G Pinder
Subs: C Sargent, E Smyth, M Frazer, L Jacob, N Small, N Gray, G O’Flanagan
Netherlands: J Sombroek, F Derkx, K van Male, C Dirkse van den Heuvel, C van Maasakker, M Paumen, E Hoog, K Collot D’Escury, K Lammers, E de Goede, M van Geffen
Subs: W Bos, K Jonker, L Meijer, R Drost, J Schoenaker, V Magis
Standings: 1. Netherlands 3pts (+6) 2. Belgium 3pts (+4) 3. Belarus 0pts (-4) 4. Ireland 0pts