Ireland look to next challenge after narrow England loss

Women’s Hockey World Cup
Pool B: Ireland 0 England 1 (G Ansley)
The disappointment of Ireland’s first loss of the World Cup in London is unlikely to linger too long over the Green Army camp as they quickly turn their focus to a date with either India or Italy in the quarter-final next Thursday.

Hosts England, backed by the majority of the 10,000 in Lee Valley, eventually broke through the Irish defences seven minutes from time when Giselle Ansley’s shot deflected in off Hannah Matthews.

Their need was far greater than Ireland’s, requiring a result to insure their passage to the knock-out rounds. For Graham Shaw’s side, they had already pocketed top spot in Pool B and a place in the last eight ahead of their date with the world number two side.

Ayeisha McFerran put in a bumper performance between the posts with a plethora of brilliant saves while her defence combined to keep out 31 shots and 14 of 15 penalty corners.

As such, it was a pity to concede so late but not a major deal in the wider context.

“It would have been nice to get the draw but we have to take so many positives,” skipper Katie Mullan said afterwards, focusing on the performance. “For us, we defended extremely well and you can’t fault any of the effort the players put in physically. There’s plenty we will learn from it and improve on for Thursday.”

The environment was a completely new one for the majority of the players who had only encountered audiences of up to 20% of last night.

Mullan had played in front of similar numbers in the All-Ireland intermediate camogie final with Eoghan Ruadh several years ago but said this was a new level.

“It’s completely unknown territory for us, playing the hosts in a World Cup where we have never been before. You go out and perform as best you can.

“The stadium was a lot fuller than Croke Park! The atmosphere was definitely the best we have I have been involved in. It was very loud and hard to hear, a big learning point for us.

“It will be pretty full come Thursday so it’s going to be a benefit. We really feed off the support and our fans and while there may not be as many of them, they certainly make themselves known and that is very powerful.”

As for the next phase, Mullan did concede that it is probably the most desireable draw on offer.

“It’s nice not to be meeting one of the top five teams in the world! But it is a quarter final of a World Cup. It doesn’t matter who it is; every team wants it so we need a big performance.”

England: M Hinch, L Unsworth, S Haycroft, A Toman, S Townsend, A Danson, G Ansley, S Bray, H Pearne-Webb, L Owsley, G Balsdon

Subs: K Lane, H Martin, S Petty, E Rayer, E Watton, J Hunter, A Tennant

Ireland: A McFerran, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, G Pinder, R Upton, C Watkins, L Colvin, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson

Subs: Y O’Byrne, M Frazer, L Tice, N Daly, D Duke, A Meeke, G O’Flanagan

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