Over 40s ladies
Game one: Ireland 0 New Zealand 1
A disappointing start to the Masters World Cup for the Irish Over 40s Women, going down 1-0 to a tough New Zealand side. In the sweltering afternoon sun, Ireland started the game confidently passing the ball about nicely, and controlling the pace and shape of the game with comfort.
The first chance came in the seventh minute, with Julie Doak forcing a good save from the Kiwi keeper. Ireland forced their first penalty corner after eight minutes but the chance was easily cleared.
They came close again after 12 minutes, Deirdre McDermott crashing across the keeper from the left side, before New Zealand threatened for the first time in the 14th minute, but the danger was dealt with well by Lynn Mills and Emma Glanville.
Ireland continued to have the lion’s share of possession and, with eight minutes to go in the first half, just failed to open the scoring, with Lorna Bagnall’s crash ball just evading JR Fisher at the back post.
Soon after, a Caroline Sharkey deflection flashed just wide after good work by Hazel Agar. In the final minute of the half, New Zealand earned their first penalty corner, but Tara Browne saved low to her right to leave the teams level at the break.
Ireland started the second half strong, Doak striking just wide after driving across a defender at the top of the circle. Her side won their second penalty corner after some great work by Ali Farrell on the right but again could not convert the corner.
New Zealand then enjoyed their best spell of the game, forcing a couple of unsuccessful penalty corners before taking the lead in scrappy fashion in the 12th minute of the second half, a forward overturning the ball inside Ireland’s circle and finishing from close range.
Ireland responded well forcing forcing two further penalty corners, and then coming close with a couple of half chances. With 15 minutes to go, Farrell forced a good close range save from the New Zealand keeper after a quick break and good work at the top of the circle by Sharkey.
Five minutes later, Farrell was just short of reaching a great crash ball from the right by Doak. The last ten minutes saw possession shared between the teams, and despite their best efforts Ireland could not quite find the goal they needed, and deserved.
While disappointed at the result, the team took great pride in a fantastic performance against a very good side, and have plenty of positives to take into the weekend.
Game two: Ireland 1 England 3
For the second day running, the Irish Over 40s Women suffered disappointment after another solid performance saw them going down 3-1 to England. Ireland again started strongly with some good early possession, particularly down the right side, and were rewarded with their first penalty corner in the 9th minute.
Unfortunately, the corner was not executed cleanly and the English defence cleared. England then took the lead, somewhat against the run of play, from their first penalty corner in the 13th minute, a straight strike just inside the left post.
As Ireland continued to dominate possession, creating the better opportunities, England looked dangerous on the break, but there was no further score in the first half.
With just the single goal separating the teams, Ireland again started strongly in the second half, forcing their second penalty corner three minutes in. Emma Glanville took the ball at the top of the circle, carried past the first runner, and crashed the shot just wide.
Ireland came close again five minutes later, Doak picking the ball up on the right side and crashing across the circle. The keeper could only palm the ball out into the middle of the circle, but it fell to an English defender who was able to clear.
The English then started to come into the game, and forced their second penalty corner, but a high strike resulted in a free for Ireland. The lead was extended though from open play after a drive into the right side of the circle resulted in a crossed ball being slapped home by the English forward.
Four minutes later England made it 3-0, again from open play. Despite being three down, Ireland rallied and pulled a goal back just two minutes later, JR Fisher finishing at the back post after a good drive into the right side of the circle by Clodagh McMoreland.
Despite the disappointment of losing, coach Guy Garrett was really pleased with some of hockey played by the Irish girls, and took many positives from the game.
Game three: Ireland 1 Netherlands 2
Another glorious day in Rotterdam saw the Irish Over 40s women lose out narrowly 2-1 to the Netherlands at the quarter final stage of the Masters World Cup.
The Dutch had been scoring freely in the pool games, but the Irish girls came into the game with a lot of confidence following three very good performances in the pool stages.
The first half was a competitive affair with the Dutch shading the possession, and looking dangerous, without creating any clear cut chances. They did open the scoring in the 19th minute from their second penalty corner, finding the net with a somewhat scrappy deflection.
Ireland had some good possession in the remainder of the half, but it was the Dutch who looked more threatening, winning two more penalty corners, without converting, leaving just a single goal between the teams at half time.
The Irish came out fighting in the second half but it was the Dutch who doubled their lead just a few minutes into the half from a penalty corner which was initially miscontrolled. The crash ball back into the circle was deflected into the net.
Ireland then enjoyed a decent spell of possession, and Julie Doak had a strike from the right side of the circle deflected over the top. Ireland’s first corner of the game came 9 minutes into the second half, after a strong run from Linda Jenkinson driving through from the centre back position and all the way into the Dutch 23.
The strike from the corner was initially blocked but Lynn Mills got to the loose ball first and finished from close range to make the score 2-1.
The remainder of the game was an exciting affair, with first the Dutch creating a couple of half chances and three more unsuccessful corners, before Ireland again came strong, with Doak coming close with a strike from a penalty corner with 10 minutes remaining.
Ireland continued to press hard in the remaining minutes, but could not quite find the equaliser. The Dutch progress into the semi-finals having been given their toughest test of the tournament so far, while Ireland face South Africa on Wednesday in the first of the classification matches.
Classification matches: Ireland 2 South Africa 1
In the first round of classification matches, Ireland finally got the win their hockey has deserved, beating South Africa 2-1. Ireland started with immediate intent, Ali Farrell with a great base line run to win a penalty corner in the first minute.
They could not convert, but created further chances in the first ten minutes, Julie Doak twice forcing excellent saves from the South African keeper after driving into the top of the circle.
Ireland finally broke the deadlock in the 16th minute, after a great run down the left and along the back line by Ali Farrell who crashed the ball across the face of goal where Deirdre McDermott deflected home.
Each side then had a couple of penalty corners, before Doak again came close forcing another save from the South African keeper on the stroke of half time.
Ireland started the second half in the same way as the first, with good early pressure, and were rewarded after Farrell picked up a good ball just outside the 23 and drove into the left side of the circle, before crossing the ball into a crowd of players.
An Irish touch forced the ball towards goal where it struck a defender’s foot for a penalty stroke. Emma Glanville converted low to the keepers left to double Ireland’s lead.
South Africa then enjoyed a short spell of possession, and created a couple of half chances, forcing a couple of fine saves fromIrish keeper Mary Harkin, before pulling a goal back in the 23rd minute of the second half, a deflected finish to a ball crashed in from the left side.
Ireland then finished the match strongly, winning three further penalty corners, but not managing to convert any of them, leaving the final score 2-1.
Fifth/sixth place playoff: Ireland 0 New Zealand 1
Having played all their previous games on water, Ireland’s final game of the tournament against New Zealand was played on sand, and both sides struggled a little to find the pace and fluidity that was shown in the pool match between the sides.
It was New Zealand who got the early lift, scoring in the sixth minute, after Ireland lost possession inside their own 23, the New Zealand forward driving into the circle and finishing well.
The sides shared possession without any real chances until the 20th minute when Julie Doak made a great run down the right side and fired across a ball which Caroline Sharkey just couldn’t reach.
A couple of minutes later, it was Doak again coming close, this time picking the ball up at the top of the circle, turning on to her strong side and firing in the shot which was well saved.
New Zealand threatened the Irish goal in the 30th minute, turning the ball over on the right side before shooting wide. Ireland finished the half strongly winning two penalty corners in the 32nd and 33rd minute, but were unable to convert.
And they started the second half strongly, flashing a ball across the face of the Irish goal in the first minute, and then winning three consecutive penalty corners, each of which was very well defended by the Irish.
Ireland then almost levelled the scoring in the 48th minute, a long ball from the back finding Doak forty yards from goal. She carried the ball into the 23, drove across the defender to the right and hit a great shot which was well saved by the New Zealand keeper.
With 8 minutes remaining, Ireland won their third penalty corner of the game. From the top of the circle the ball was run into a New Zealand foot, but as the ball fell cleanly to Ali Farrell, the umpire allowed play to continue, but the resulting shot was high.
Six minutes left, Ireland keeper Tara Browne was taken off and replaced by an outfield player as Ireland sought an equaliser to take the game into a shoot-out. The final chance of the game came with five minutes remaining when Ireland won their fourth penalty corner, but the strike from the top flashed just wide, and the game finished 1-0 to New Zealand.
The squad will be disappointed at registering only a single victory in their six games, but every game was extremely competitive and only once were the teams divided by more than a single goal.
In all six games, the Irish girls played some great hockey, and played with a work rate and intensity that was matched by very few of the other sides in the tournament. The squad now look forward to the Home Nations tournament at the end of June with a lot of confidence.
** Reports from Philip Mills