Outstanding Ireland add gold to WL3 ticket

Hockey World League Round 2 final
Ireland 3 (A O’Flanagan, K Mullan, Z Wilson) Malaysia 0

Graham Shaw described Ireland’s 3-0 win over Malaysia as “outstanding” as they beat the hosts 3-0, adding that the tournament will act as a benchmark for exciting times ahead.

With a ticket to World League Round 3 assured, the shackles were off and Ireland played some of their most attractive hockey, breaking at speed and transitioning from defence into attack in a direct, aggressive fashion.

Anna O’Flanagan’s early goal set them on their way and a second goal in the tenth minute from Katie Mullan meant they were always in control though they were thankful to Ayeisha McFerran’s penalty stroke save. Zoe Wilson capped off the result early in the second half.

Reflecting on the match and the tournament, Shaw said: “The performance tonight was outstanding. We played a very attractive style of hockey and it was very enjoyable to watch, played in front of a huge home crowd.

“We have had an incredible experience and, have grown and learnt a lot as a group. This is our first competitive tournament in 18 months and we’re very proud of the team and the level of performance.”

It sets up a busy summer with a World League Round 3 event in either Brussels in late June or Johannesburg in July where the guts of the 16 World Cup places will be decided from the 20 entrants. They will then take on the European Championships in August.

“We have exciting times coming ahead. We will use this tournament as a benchmark going forward. Our number one goal is to qualify for the World Cup and then finish as high as possible in the Europeans.”

They hit the front in the seventh minute when O’Flanagan recycled possession on halfway and tore up the pitch; the ball was worked out to Naomi Carroll whose run drifted across the 23m line before picking out Chloe Watkins. She swept her cross to O’Flanagan at the back post to net her 12th goal of the tournament, earnng her the top scorers prize as well as player of the tournament.

Malaysia were awarded a stroke when Lena Tice got in a tangle from a quickly taken free, adjudged to have denied the hosts in the act of shooting. Ayeisha McFerran tipped away Nuaini Rashid’s shoulder-high flick.

Mullan doubled the lead in the 10th minute as she released a rocket on her reverse from the top of the circle after Nicci Daly and Roisin Upton worked the chance. She was amid a number of defenders but a quick back-lift and strike meant none could close down her shot.

A brilliant piece of Gillian Pinder work almost unlocked the door for O’Flanagan’s second, keeping the score at 2-0 at half-time. The third did come five minutes into the second half, though, when Zoe Wilson recouped the ball after her initial shot was charged down and zipped a high shot through the gap between goalkeeper and the defender on the left post.

Katie Mullan hit the outside of the goal while Hannah Matthews was denied another from a piece of scrambled defence but it mattered little as Ireland were home and hosed following a great team performance.

Ireland: A McFerran, H Matthews, N Evans, K Mullan (Captain), S McCay, L Tice, C Watkins, L Colvin, N Daly, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson

Subs: C Cassin, Y O’Byrne, C Sargent, N Carroll, G Pinder, R Upton, R Barry

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