Irish women produce special second half performance at Hawkes Bay Cup

Hawkes Bay Cup, fifth to eighth place playoff
Ireland 3 (N Carroll, C Watkins, L Tice) Korea 3 (S K Cheon 2, B Kim), Ireland win 1-0 in a shoot-out

Rewatching Ireland’s comeback from 3-0 down to beat world number nine side Korea in a shoot-out, it was hard not to feel that there was some extra importance to the performance.

Trailing 3-0 at half-time, the second quarter saw the Irish team buzz, winning a series of corners and pinning the Koreans back into their 23m zone. While the goals would come later, the work-rate and body language suggested belief and confidence to pull off something memorable against an Olympic side, one that Ireland will hope to displace in the world’s top ten.

In the end, two goals in the last 41 seconds eventually saw Graham Shaw’s side nick a 3-3 draw in normal time before Korea capitulated in the shoot-out as Ayeisha McFerran stood her ground with superb composure.

The game didn’t start at the same pace seen in the previous matches of this tournament as Korea opted to fall away in their press and seemed content to wait for Irish errors.

A penalty corner in the eighth minute saw Seul Ki Cheon rocket the ball high into the right corner to give Korea the lead. Both teams struggled to retain possession as the heavens opened on a wet and gloomy day in Hawkes Bay.

From a turnover, Bomi Kim produced a real piece of quality with a spectacular backhand shot to the roof of the net for 2-0. As half time approached, Korea added to their healthy lead Cheon stepped up and sent another penalty corner drag into the roof of the net, 3-0 at half-time.

There was a notable shift in the Green Army after the big break as they bossed the tie, winning four penalty corners and began to connect the passes that had eluded them in the opening 30 minutes.

Better transition of the ball opened spaces for strong runs by Anna O’Flanagan and Naomi Carroll, who was dogged in her attack throughout. Carroll’s just-reward came 30 seconds into the fourth quarter when Nikki Evans crossed from the left for her for to strike after a swift attack.

They ratcheted up the tempo further but Korea looked to be surviving in the face of an onslaught. Ireland, though, kept tearing into the attacks, sniping at every tackle, and got their rewards late in the game.

Anna O'Flanagan en route to Ireland's shoot-out goal.

Anna O’Flanagan en route to Ireland’s shoot-out goal.

Nicci Daly angled a pass to the top of the circle where O’Flanagan wriggled away from her marker and, with a sharp turn and reverse drew a good save from Soo Ji Jang. Chloe Watkins calmly picked up the pieces and lifted into the goal.

Shaw pulled goalkeeper McFerran and opted for an additional outfield player with 41 seconds still left and they quickly recovered the ball from the restart after Korea flicked possession away.

Sinead Loughran and Deirdre Duke boroughed a route through the midfield before feeding the ball to Lena Tice, unmarked on the right edge of the circle. Seeing the keeper coming, she slid her stick underneath the ball, spinning it up and over, nestling deliciously in the left corner of the goal – 3-3 with 20 seconds left.

The shoot-out was dominated by the goalkeepers with only Anna O’Flanagan registering a goal in the third round. She did so at the second attempt after her first effort was cut short by a goalkeeper’s foul, seeing the shoot-out reset where she attacked left and then spun around to the right and potted into an open goal.

McFerran, meanwhile, stayed on her feet to great effect, delaying the attackers long enough to take low percentage shots with three efforts skewing wide and wild. In round five, she simply swept away from Bomi Kim, taking a heavy blow in the process.

The victory means Ireland are guaranteed to finish above their tournament ranking and they will face India this evening at 1.45am (Irish time) for fifth place.

Speaking after the gutsy victory, coach Shaw said: “We believe we can get into the top ten in the world and we’re going to work incredibly hard to get there. It’s fantastic to be here playing against the top nations and to test ourselves. This team have shown the character they have, I’m incredibly proud”.

Ireland: A McFerran (GK), Y O’Byrne, C Sargent, N Evans, K Mullan, M Frazer, S Loughran, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan
Subs: L Tice, D Duke, N Carroll, E Beatty, G Pinder, Z Wilson, P Smithwick

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