EuroHockey Junior Championships
Ireland 0 France 1 (Y Lhopital)
Yohanna Lhopital’s 58th minute goal saw Ireland’s Junior Green Army fall to a gutting 1-0 defeat to France at a rain-drenched Valencia.
It is a defeat that puts their hopes of staying in the top tier – even at this early stage of the competition – on the back foot with margins very tight.
Reflecting on the tie, coach Dave Passmore said it was a tough result to take after his side held the majority of the possession but the slow nature of the pitch led to it being a battle low on fluid hockey.
“I’m really disappointed for the girls but France are a really difficult team to play against with 14 senior internationals who have played in their own European Championships three weeks ago.
“We controlled the game for the most part. We knew where they were dangerous and that they would try and throw aerials and hit us on the counter. Largely, we dealt with that well.
“You will only get half chances in games like that and the ones that fell our way were in congested circles.”
To that end, the first quarter played out to little fanfare with Ellen Curran and Jess McMaster showing up well in midfield while the 17-year-old Lhopital was consistently the French go-to player.
Suzie Kelly’s tackle on Lhopital denied the first chance of note in the 20th minute. In response, a lovely interchange between Taite Doherty and Abbie Russell unlocked the French defence but goalkeeper Mathile Petriaux raced out to clear the danger.
After half-time, Ireland took control of the ball with France content to sit very deep and throw long balls to try and alleviate the pressure. Sorcha Clarke shot a reverse just wide from a narrow angle while Michelle Carey and Sarah Torrans – both part of the Irish Under-18 setup this summer – also combined well.
But two Irish penalty corners could yield no joy, nor could Clarke’s dancing feet down the left baseline after a beautiful piece of skill. A corner with three minutes to go also went awry with a slow push-out as the rain intensified.
“It was such a shame about the last corner because we worked on that, knew how they would defend. For the injection not to go right, devastated.”
France duly pounced with time running out from a rare break, Ines Lardeur – a veteran of almost 50 senior international ties – fired into the circle from the left. It broke to Lhopital, seemingly off a French foot, and she slapped into the bottom corner.
It leaves Ireland destined for the relegation pool where they will need to beat higher ranked opposition.
“You don’t know what else will happen,” Passmore said, confident his side will regroup quickly for the challenges ahead. “Odd, strange things can happen. We obviously didn’t want to lose the game but we are still in it. The girls are a really strong, tight group and they will pull themselves together.”
They play Germany on Thursday at 8am (Irish time).
Ireland: L Murphy, J McMaster, S Torrans, T Doherty, E Getty, H McLoughlin, R Maguire, E Nyland, S Twomey, S Kelly, E Curran
Subs: T Hastings, A Ogilby, S Clarke, M Carey, S Patton, A Russell
France: M Petriaux, E Ponthieu, G van Bolhuis, J Brachet, V Vankemmel, E Lecas, M Simon, A Garot, N Roque, D Gaspari
Subs: C Deroo, A Demars, A Isore, I De Taeye, I Lardeur, S Lauret
Umpires: R Woodcock (ENG), S Bockelmann (GER)