Irish whirlwind leaves Wilson in a blur

“It all seems like a bit of a blur.” It’s not just a product of the reems of sweat fogging up Zoe Wilson’s glasses as the whirlwind of higher and higher ecstasy engulfed her and the Irish women’s team following their World Cup semi-final win over Spain.

“I just want someone to pinch me. I can’t believe we are in the finals of the World Cup, it’s an absolutely amazing feeling.”

It is yet another amazing moment in this World Cup odyssey. It was 16 years since their last appearance on this stage, 32 years since their last win in a group stage; they had never won back to back matches on this stage. All records smashed.

“Just speechless,” Nikki Evans added, saying there was no conception of achieving this at any stage in the build-up.

“We are ranked 16th in the world! We promised ourselves we would go out for every game and enjoy it. We promised ourselves that we would have no regrets in this competition and leave everything on the pitch and at the end of the day we could look at the scoreline and accept it.”

They will more than accept it. The shoot-out win came off the back of a strong performance, bossing the first 10 minutes and taking an early lead through Anna O’Flanagan.

Spain levelled during a purple patch in the second half but Ireland finished strong, almost nicking the result from a fifth penalty corner in the dying moments.

“Today at times we played really well,” Evans continued. “Ayeisha [McFerran] didn’t have to make that many saves. A couple more corners that on and, on another day, we maybe would have executed and then it goes to a shoot-out.”

Almost to a player, the Irish players knew they had the result in the can once it went to that endgame due to their goalkeeper’s incredible record.

“Ayeisha is so calm and in one v one, she is a rock, she has class, she has everything,” Shirley McCay said of the Larne woman.

Wilson concurred. “She gives us so much confidence and we know if it gets through to shoot-outs, she’s one of the best in the world.”

Next stop, the awesome Netherlands in the final after they beat Australia on a shoot-out, beyond anything the side could have imagined with the Green Army certain to leave a lasting impact not just on hockey but on the Irish sporting landscape.

“We are living in a bubble but it is hard when whatever you’re doing becomes unprecedented and is making history,” McCay said.

“We never thought this would happen. We said today was our final. Holland are an unbelievable team but we will just keep enjoying every second.”

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