Women’s EuroHockey Championships II final
Ireland 5 (K Mullan, M Frazer, C Brown, N Carroll, E Beatty) Czech Republic 0
Pre-tournament, Graham Shaw said his Ireland side “don’t see ourselves as a two-tier side” and they showed that in emphatic fashion with a final heavy win in Prague, easing to a 5-0 victory.
It added a golden exclamation mark to the week, making for a memorable day for Shirley McCay who became Ireland’s most capped woman in her 209th international match, moving one ahead of Nikki Symmons.
The hints of a mismatch came just a couple of seconds into the tie as Naomi Carroll spun on a ball mid-circle to draw a strong stop, a portent of things to come.
Katie Mullan fired home from close range the opening goal seven minutes into the game. Ireland were bossing most facets of the tie, running up four corners before half-time, with the Czechs struggling to break out.
They did have one counter which led to a corner when Ireland did not retreat from a free-in. Cliodhna Sargent made a good save from the deflected hit and was not to be seriously tested again.
The second goal came 32 minutes in when Mullan was physically impeded trying to get to a crash ball into the circle. Megan Frazer – later awarded the player of the tournament title – flicked in the second goal, doubling the lead at the break.
Chloe Brown tipped in the third goal at the near post early in the second half from Chloe Watkins’ cross from the right wing. Nicci Daly’s crash ball then found its way to Carroll to score her fifth goal of the tournament and a 4-0 lead.
Barbora Cechakova’s goal was peppered thereafter and she helped her case for goalkeeper of the competition with high stops from Mullan and Carroll while Frazer and Kate Lloyd fired over.
Amid the incessant pressure, Emily Beatty hit the baseline and her pull-back took a defender’s stick to turn in the fifth goal in the 54th minute.
And that was that, a bullish performance from the Irish team to bounce back from the heartache of missing out on an Olympic place to show they belong in much more exulted company with the world’s top ten very much the stated ambition.
As for McCay’s significant achievement, she said: “To become the most capped female Irish player is an achievement I am extremely proud of. Female athletes are gaining more recognition than ever before and I am delighted to be able to create history today.
“Playing for Ireland has always been a gratifying and humbling experience for me and cap 209 was no different. I’m thrilled we could mark it with a win! We have shown immense character and mental resilience to do what we came to achieve and regain our A division status.”
She added that she is “lucky to be surrounded by a group of incredibly talented players and a backroom staff to match, so a huge thank you must go to them for making these opportunities a reality”.
Coach Shaw paid tribute to the 27-year-old: “To play 209 times and become the highest capped female player for your country is a testament to her hard work, commitment and dedication. Shirley is a great team player and a fantastic person so we are thrilled for her as she thoroughly deserves this honour”.
Ireland will return to the top tier of European Championships in 2017.
Ireland: A McFerran, C Brown, K Mullan, S McCay, M Frazer, N Carroll, G Pinder, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, C Sargent
Subs: S Davis, Y O’Byrne, K Lloyd, D Duke, K McDonald, A Meeke, E Beatty.