Hockey World League Semi-Final
Ireland 2 (Z Wilson, D Duke) Germany 2 (A Wortmann, N Lorenz)
Ireland were cruelly denied a famous victory over Germany, one that could have all but assured their passage through to the quarter-finals of the World League in Johannesburg by Nike Lorenz’s controversial corner on the final hooter.
It provided a messy end to a stubborn defensive effort, underpinned by Ayeisha McFerran’s brilliance between the posts as Ireland led twice against the Olympic bronze medalists, Germany.
Deidre Duke’s goal 44 seconds from full-time made it 2-1 and should have handed Graham Shaw’s side victory after a “monumental defensive effort”. But Germany summoned a penalty corner with just a couple of seconds to go which, after initially being reset, Lorenz planted into the bottom corner.
Shaw, however, said in the aftermath of the tie that 40-second countdown protocol for penalty corners was not properly followed with the umpires allowing to take their final set-piece, saying the countdown timer on the stadium indicated there was still time to go before the corner be played.
“On the big screen, the short corner counter was still counting down with 12 seconds to go when they took the corner,” Shaw said. You have to wait until it hits zero and so the goal should not have been given.
“It would have given us 10 seconds to get set and also means our keeper would be more ready. That’s where the frustration is and it’s not a difficult decision to get right.”
He initially suggested there may be an appeal of some sort but, later in the day, the side decided not to make a further issue of it. Nonetheless, it was a second strong showing in the tournament from the Irish side against higher ranked opposition.
They carved open the Germans on numerous occasions in the first quarter. A lovely interchange between Roisin Upton and Gillian Pinder led to a vicious cross that was only plucked from Anna O’Flanagan’s waiting stick by Janne Muller-Wieland’s crucial touch.
Hannah Matthews long ball drew a lovely first touch from Emily Beatty that put her clean through but her shot did not match that quality and was scuffed wide. Upton brilliantly lifted a pass over the last defender to put Katie Mullan through in the 13th minute.
She was caught by the back-tracking defenders but the captain cleverly held the ball up and found a foot. From the corner, the move was a little staccato but scattered the defence enough that when Zoe Wilson shot, it took a heavy deflection, and looped into the goal.
Germany soon shut down the free-running counters in the second quarter and began to turn the screw, pinning Ireland deep in defence for the guts of the tie. Ireland did give up a number of corners but their running lines were smart, guiding the shots to McFerran’s glove side where she saved strongly three times to keep the lead in place at half-time.
A physical under-current was there throughout the tie and O’Flanagan’s yellow – probably more for back-stick than anything else – was a portent of things to come. Viktoria Huse knocked over Shirley McCay in nose-bleed territory before Ireland’s most capped player followed her to the sideline for a push.
The corners did keep coming for Germany; the McFerran saves repelled them as Ireland hung on grittily to their narrow lead. When Camille Nobis did nick the ball from under the goalkeeper’s pads, Matthews got in behind to deny her chance from point blank range.
The resistence was broken, though, with four minutes going while Upton became the fourth player to serve a yellow card ban. Germany went with an extra outfielder for that time and used the extra numbers to work an opening for Amelie Wortmann to touch in at the right post.
Ireland replied, though, buoyed by the sin-binning of Muller-Wieland and got back in front in the final minute. Nicci Daly glided in between tackles and pumped into the circle where Anna O’Flanagan and Duke were buzzing around. The latter poked home from the former’s pass.
But the Germans created an almost instant overlap in the closing seconds to put Ireland on the rack one last time and they took their chance in the closing 12 seconds.
“I thought we executed the game plan brilliantly,” Shaw added. “The girls worked incredibly hard. Germany had a lot of the play and hard us on the back foot a lot which you expect against the Olympic bronze medalists. We put in a great effort and are very frustrated not to come away with the win.”
Ireland are back in action on Wednesday against Poland where a win will assure their passage through to the quarter-finals. The Poles lost 3-0 to England in the other group game.
The Irish men continue their campaign on Tuesday at 5pm (Irish time) against Belgium.
Ireland: A McFerran, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, G Pinder, R Upton, N Daly, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson
Subs: Y O’Byrne, E Beatty, S Loughran, L Colvin, D Duke
Germany: J Ciupka, N Lorenz, C Stapenhorst, J Muller-Wieland, N Heyn, J Teschke, L Altenburg, F Hauke, C Pieper, M Mavers, H Granitzki
Subs: E Grave, T Martin Pelegrina, C Nobis, N Notman, A Wortmann, V Huse, L Schneider