Day two: Ireland 45s 2 Wales 1
Ireland 45s played Wales in a must win game on Saturday morning to keep their hopes of winning the Masters Home Nations O45s title for the first time ever.
Ireland started brightly with several attacks in the opening quarter but it was Wales who opened the scoring with a goal from a penalty corner, a shot from the top of the circle.
Ireland mounted several attacks and came close when good work in midfield from Aoife O’Farrell on the right and her through ball found Kathryn Henderson and her cross found Deirdre McDermott in the Wales circle and her snap shot was just narrowly wide.
In the second quarter, the home side continued in search of the equaliser and came close from an Aisling Field strike from a short corner.
In the third quarter, Ireland found greater accuracy in their passing and this lead to increased possession in the Wales half. Good work down the left by Nichola Thompson lead to a cross in from the left which JR Fisher was unlucky not to get a final touch on to steer it into the Wales net.
The breakthrough finally came late in the third quarter when a through ball from Thompson on the left led to a sideline ball for Ireland just inside the Wales 23, Deirdre McDermott took a quick sideline and drove towards the Welsh circle and spotted the great run by Susan McCourt.
McCourt’s shot was superbly saved by the Welsh keeper but the ball rebounded to Thompson on the right edge of the circle and she made no mistake with a shot high into the left corner of the net to equalise for Ireland.
Ireland went in search of a winner and Ash Schutte saw her great effort just go wide of the right post. Ireland’s confidence and energy continued to grow and a great break from centre midfield by Clodagh McMoreland and on the run she threaded through a defence-splitting weighted pass to Ash Schutte who picked it up at pace and made no mistake with her shot which beat the Welsh keeper and put Ireland 2-1 up.
Wales went in search of an equaliser but stout defending by the back four of Aisling Field, Shelly Lyons, Lynn Mills and Noreen Dockery and Irish keeper Mary Harkin kept the Welsh at bay and Ireland added to their victory on the Friday v Scotland as the game finished 2-1 to Ireland over Wales and avenged the defeat to Wales in Edinburgh 12 months earlier.
Sunday: Ireland O45s 2 England 1
Ireland won their all-or-nothing tie against England to land the women’s Over-45 masters Home Nations title. England, who only needed a draw due to superior goal difference, started the brighter and had an attacking penalty corner opportunity in the third minute but this was well defended by the Irish defence.
England continued to attack and a superb save by Mary Harkin in the Irish goal denied England.
This save by Harkin gave Ireland the shot in the arm they needed and they began to settle into the match and started to gain possession in the English half and build pressure.
A good passing move started on the left by Nichola Thompson found Anne Young and she beat two English players and her reverse stick shot from just inside of the top of the circle beat the English keeper and put Ireland one up after 10 minutes.
Ireland continued to attack and put the English defence under pressure and in the second quarter, this pressing play by the Irish forward line and midfield led to Ireland’s second goal.
A through pass from midfield following a turnover found Kathryn Henderson and her ball into the circle ended up in a foot chase between the English goalkeeper and the onrushing Deirdre McDermott with the keeper just getting a toe poke to it.
But it fell to Henderson and her goal-bound shot was stopped on the line by an English foot and Ireland were awarded a penalty stroke. Henderson stepped up to take the stroke and calmly made no mistake putting her stroke past the keeper into the left corner of the net to put Ireland 2-0 up at half time.
In the second half England threw the kitchen sink at Ireland and Ireland had to defend with their lives, through Captain Shelly Lyons and brave defending by the Irish defence of Aisling Field, Noreen Dockery, Lynn Mills and Elayne McDermott and a string of fine saves by Mary Harkin in the Irish goal kept the score at 2-0 going into the final quarter.
In the final quarter, Ireland had more possession than the third quarter and the Irish midfield of Clodagh McMoreland, Dara McDermott, Aoife O’Farrell, Thompson and Shirley Moore controlled this possession and worked tirelessly to win back possession and provide cover to the back four.
Good work by Elayne McDermott who drove the Irish team forward from centre-back and had a lovely incisive run which but for some last-ditch defending by England would have put the game out of England’s reach.
But England finally scored with six minutes to go to leave it a very anxious final five minutes for the big and very vocal home support.
But tireless work by all the Irish players and great tracking back and pressing play by JR Fisher, Young, Schutte and McCourt and the Irish midfield and defence saw Ireland hold on bravely for a famous hard fought 2-1 victory.
It added to a great weekend for Irish Masters Hockey with the Irish 0-40s retaining their Home Nations title and the Irish O-50s winning to make it a hat-trick of titles for Ireland on home soil.