Ireland Master Ladies 50s have qualified for the International Masters World Cup Final in Canberra on April 6, taking on home hosts Australia in the decider.The Irish Masters have had a fantastic tournament so far with an unbeaten record of wins against New Zealand 2-0, Wales 5-0, Canada 7-0, Wattles (Aussies) 3-0, plus a scoreless draw against Australia in the round robin.
The Ladies face the Aussies again with a real expectancy that the can be the first Ireland Masters gold medallists in history.
In 2014, the ladies 50s team won the bronze medal at the World Cup in Rotterdam in The Netherlands and, in 2015, they won silver at the European Cup in London.
Since then, they have been training together very regularly under the guidance of coach Benjamin Epstein and have a very strong and talented squad with a number of senior Ireland ex-internationals!
Experienced international Maggie Hunter captains the squad and they have the tournament’s leading Goal Scorer in Cathy Walsh.
They got off to a flying start with victory over Canada in an early morning game with temperature at a pleasant 17 degrees which suited the Irish and they responded with seven goals for and none against.
The games are being played in four quarters of 17.5 minutes per quarter. In the first quarter, good attack from Roly Burke and Annie Lawlor in midfield brought many chances for the Irish girls.
From Ireland’s third penalty corner a well-practiced move saw Jane Salter flick the ball towards Kathy Shaw who skillfully deflected the ball past the oncoming keeper.
In the second quarter, another Epstein-inspired corner variation saw Cathy Walsh produce a delightful strike from a Burke slip.
Ireland’s experience started to show in the third quarter with solid defence from Pamela Chittick and Tracey Kingston allowed good build up play from Maura O’Neill to put Kathy Shaw in space on the right touch line and a delicate pass gave Marian O’ Brien a clinical finish at the left post.
Another goal in this quarter came following good work by Joanne O’Grady finishing with Cathy Walsh pivoting and slotting the ball home.
The final quarter was Ireland’s best period of the game and continued pressure on the Canadian defence resulted in Cathy Walsh getting her hat trick after intricate work by Siobhan Glynn.
She quickly followed this with a solo effort, possibly the pick of four. The final Irish corner of the game another corner variation resulted in Jane Slater calmly placing the ball beyond the Welsh keeper’s reach.
Day 2 saw Ireland drawn against the other Celtic side, Wales, and were no strangers to this ebullient team. This game was played under floodlight to facilitate the 14 hours of matches per day necessary to keep this World Cup Competition on schedule.
A good start against the Welsh was desirable and Maggie Hunter’s team couldn’t have asked for a better one as they went 2-0 up inside six minutes, goals coming from two of the first three corners, one from Jane Salter and one from Cathy Walsh.
The initial tempo was difficult to maintain and the 2-0 score line remained until the end of the second quarter during which time Ireland continued to press with no avail.
At the beginning of the third quarter Wales had their best spell but with Helen Roche in goal and Orla Galvin and Ann Snoddy keeping the defence tight their effort was short lived.
Ireland’s third goal again from a well worked corner was a second for Jane Salter and she completed her hat trick a short time later when she converted a penalty stroke.
Ireland’s fifth goal was the pick of the bunch, a real team goal coming from the back through Maura O’Neill to Claire Bell finding Siobhan Glynn who had made a good run to the back line and then placed the ball for Marian O’Brien to slot home at close range.
They followed up with a 3-0 win against the “Wattles” (Australian Senior Country Women’s Hockey Team) with goals from the that goal scoring machine Cathy Walsh, Joanne O’Grady and Marian O’Brien.
A scoreless draw with Australia to secure a medal play off spot thanks to another superb performance. They closed out the group with a 2-0 win over New Zealand with Burke and Walsh scoring the goals once again.