Under-23s caught late to tie with GB; U-18s frustrated; Chambers keeps on firing

The Irish underage international sides had another tough day at their respective tournaments with two draws gleaned from the six games played across the continent.

The Under-23 women did add to their Tuesday win over Canada with a 2-2 draw against Great Britain with Sarah Torrans and Jessica McMaster netting the goals.

There was an element of frustration, though, as GB nicked last minute equaliser from a controversially awarded penalty corner. It means they will need a positive result on Belgium – whom they beat twice in warm-up games – to have a chance at playing off for third place from this Six Nations event in Antwerp.

The Brits took the lead from a corner in the first half but Torrans – who was in excellent form throughout – tied things up a minute into the second half.

She would then lay on the pass for McMaster to make it 2-1 and they held that narrow advantage courtesy of Hannah McLoughlin’s composed defending and some strong Emma Buckey stops but GB eventually drew level at the end.

The men’s Under-23s lost 6-1 to GB, their third blank from three, with hosts Belgium on Friday their last pool game.

At Under-18 level, the girls needed a draw or better to reach the semi-finals but succumbed 4-0 to England.

Ireland got off to a great start, getting their tactical alignment spot on and thought they had a lead when Nadia Benallal got a faint touch to Amy Elliott’s cross.

It was ruled out for a foot though the umpire later viewed the video and admitted her error. It unfortunately changed the façade of the game with England scoring via Molly Redgrave soon after.

Sophie Hamilton added another 10 seconds before half-time which knocked the stuffing out of Ireland. Two more followed in the third quarter and while Ireland won a series of corners in the final quarter, they could not breakthrough.

They now face Spain and France in the relegation pool. The French have yet to register a point while Spain look a skillful opponent in the final third but have conceded heavily which offers opportunity.

The boys lost 7-0 to Belgium in something of a dead rubber. They were already confined to their relegation pool and will probably need wins over both England and Poland to stay up.

At Under-16 level, the boys continue to be the most impressive of Ireland’s squads this week. Troy Chambers netted twice against Spain in a 2-2 draw, adding to their win over England.

In a highly competitive match, Spain won the only penalty corner of the first half but neither side were unable to break the deadlock.

Ireland started the second half well and began to exert pressure on the Spanish defence winning a corner in the 37th minute. Chambers, after scoring a hat-trick yesterday, flicked the ball past Victor Bejarano to give Ireland the lead.

Spain fought back quickly, winning a corner four minutes later and Pol Cabre’s effort pulled Spain level at the end of the third quarter.

Spain took the lead early in the fourth quarter when Albert Grau beat Ross Clarke in the Irish goal, after Clarke had made a superb double save.

From the restart, Ireland attacked immediately and Chambers was on hand to find the back of the net again to make it 2-2. Despite some late chances for both sides, it finished level sending the sides to a shoot-out for a bonus point.

Spain proved the stronger side and picked up the bonus point by scoring their first three shoot-outs, with Ireland failing to score.

The girls missed out 2-1 to the Spanish. The opening quarter was evenly contested with both sides creating chances. Spain managed to win their second penalty corner in the 14th minute and after the initial shot was defended, Carla Barba Armengol was first to react to give Spain the lead.

Despite some pressure from Spain towards the end of the first half, the Irish defence stood firm to leave the score at half-time 1-0 to Spain.

Ireland began brightly after the break, earning a penalty corner with Milly Lynch flicking the ball just over the crossbar. Lynch was given a second opportunity five minutes later and this time she dragged low and left to score the equaliser.

Spain restored their lead just a minute later when Paula Pena Martinez slotted passed Holly Micklem in the Irish goal to lead at the end of the third quarter by 2-1 and held on for the result from there.

Ireland will hope they cane get off the mark when they play Belgium on Thursday at 4pm in the Mardyke. They are the only Irish side in action with the other five teams resting.

Women’s Under-23 Six Nations (Antwerp): Ireland 2 (S Torrans, J McMaster) Great Britain 2

Men’s Under-23 Five Nations (Antwerp): Ireland 1 Great Britain 6

Girls European Under-18 Championship (Santander): Ireland 0 England 4

Boys European Under-18 Championship (Santander): Ireland 0 Belgium 7

Boys Under-16 Six Nations (The Mardyke, Cork): Ireland 2 (T Chambers 2) Spain 2 (P Cabre, A Grau), Spain win bonus point shoot-out 3-0

Girls Under-16 Six Nations (The Mardyke, Cork): Ireland 1 (M Lynch) Spain 2 (C Barba Armengol, P Pena Martinez); Today: Ireland v Belgium, 4pm

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