Women’s EuroHockey Championships II semi-final
Ireland 4 (N Carroll, M Frazer, S McCay, C Brown) Belarus 0
Ireland cruised through their EuroHockey Championships II semi-final to earn promotion to the top tier of the continental competition with the minimum of fuss, disposing of Belarus 4-0 in Prague.
It continued Graham Shaw’s immaculate start to life as Irish coach with a fourth straight win since taking over from Darren Smith with an aggregate score line of 17-1, going 269 minutes without conceding.
This semi-final was done and dusted with less than half an hour gone as Naomi Carroll’s tap in was followed up by a superb solo goal from Megan Frazer and a deflected corner strike from Shirley McCay.
Chloe Brown was credited with the fourth goal in the final six minutes but the sting had long gone out of the tie as Belarus struggled to test the Irish defence in any meaningful manner.
It means Ireland will play in the A division of the European Championships in 2017 as they showed a fair degree of resolve to bounce back after the agony of missing out on the Olympic Games in late June. They will play in the final of this competition on Saturday.
Belarus showed some early threat when they won the opening corner five minutes into the semi-final but, within moments of it not being stopped, Ireland had cleared and won a set piece of their own.
While the injection and stop went awry, the ball was shovelled over to McCay who whacked the ball wide of the left post where Hannah Matthews laid up a lovely touch behind goalkeeper Veranika Mikanhovich. Carroll had enough time on the goal line to control and touch in.
It was scrappy enough at this stage with Ireland with partially more control. Frazer was the player to stamp some authority on proceedings when she picked the ball up in midfield. She lined up her opposite number before swirving left and unleashed a reverse-stick effort past Mikanhovich.
McCay got the third from Ireland’s third corner, her sweep taking a deflection from the runner into the corner for a 3-0 half-time lead.
Belarus came out stronger in the early phases of the second half, allowing Ireland more freedom on the counter attack. A couple of incursions were only let down by miscontrols in the circle at the final phase while two corner chances were kept out.
The fourth goal came late on as Katie Mullan made a top run before picking out Brown on the right of the circle. She aimed for the waiting Deirdre Duke but a back pedalling defender kicked the ball into her own goal to compound the Belarussian misery.
Coach Graham Shaw said of the win: “We’re happy with the result and the performance today. We controlled the phases well and created a lot of chances. We set a target of gaining promotion back to A Division which is very important for us as a group going forward. We are delighted with achieving that and are looking forward to the final on Saturday”.
Ireland: A McFerran, C Sargent, C Brown, K Mullan, S McCay, M Frazer, N Carroll, G Pinder, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews
Subs: Y O’Byrne, E Beatty, D Duke, A Meeke, K Lloyd, K McDonald