Junior Green Army set for drop after loss to Spain

Women’s EuroHockey Junior Championships Pool A

Ireland 0 Spain 4 (L Barrios 2, I Zaldua, S Barrios)

The Junior Green Army’s outside hopes of escaping the bottom three of the EuroHockey Junior Championships came to an end at the hands of the hosts as they fell 4-0 in Valencia.

Given the odd tournament format created by the extra team, it was always going to be a tough task with the bottom two in this five-team pool unable to escape the drop.

As such, the opening 1-0 defeat to Russia was the critical blow and while Ireland battled hard against the Dutch and the Spaniards, that late sucker-punch will provide the defining moment.

In their must-win date against an accomplished home side, Ireland carried the fight in the early stages with Michelle Barry and Niamh Carey’s neat interchanges earned a couple of corners, the latter of which saw Caitlin Sherin’s power-shot well blocked.

But the momentum was sucked out of them when Spain were awarded a hotly contested penalty stroke in the 14th minute for what looked a light enough stick-tackle at the edge of the circle. Laura Barrios converted and Ireland were chasing the game.

Isabel Zaldua’s powerful shot from their first corner gave the Spaniards an even big head start and they stayed two clear when Clara Perez somehow kept out Michelle Carey’s reverse with Barry lurking.

Spain, though, were the side playing with confidence and Liz Murphy needed to be on her game to keep out a volley of shots early in the second half.

Faint hope was extinguished, however, when Barrios struck the third with a rasping reverse in the 43rd minute.

Ireland went for broke in the last 15 minutes, going to 11 outfielders, but it looked to have backfired when Spain won a stroke. Murphy came back on and duly got a fingertip to keep out Barrios from the spot. Jane Kilpatrick saved another off the line with a ridiculous pick over her head.

The extra player did give overloads to win some corners but Spain took advantage of the lack of pads with nine minutes to go when Sara Barrios wriggled free and nudged the ball over the line for 4-0.

It means the top two semi-final places are out of reach while Russia are safe in third in the group and will playoff for fifth and sixth over the weekend.

As such, it will be a big job for the side to bounce back for two, possibly three, remaining games this week.

Ireland and Thursday opponents France – who are also relegated already – will play to decide who finishes fourth and fifth in the group.  The winner goes into the seventh-place playoff on Sunday, the loser will meet Belarus on Saturday in a game that decides who joins the seventh-eighth place playoff.

Ireland: L Murphy, J Kilpatrick, K Fearon, S O’Brien, E Getty, L Foley, N Carey, H McLoughlin, C Perdue, E Markey, E Curran

Subs: J McMaster, M Carey, E Reid, C Hamill, M Barry, C Sherin, H Humphreys

Spain: C Perez, S Barrios, J Strappato, E Forte, F Amundson, C Amundson, P Alvarez, C Badia, P Fernandez, C Pineda

Subs: I Zaldua, L Bruguera, C Rodriguez, A Barba, B Agullo, L Vidosa, C Badia.

Pool standings (games played): 1. Netherlands (3) 9pts (+19) 2. Spain (3) 9ts (+8) 3. Russia (4) 6pts (-9) 4. France (3) 0pts (-9) 5. Ireland (3) 0pts (-9)

Thursday: Ireland v France, 7pm, Valencia

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