Ireland face big Slovakia battle after opening day win and loss

Ireland ended day one of the women’s EuroHockey Indoor Championships III in Slovakia in contention for a potential promotion place following a 5-0 win over Portugal and a 5-1 loss to Spain.

The former was the perfect return to continental action a 30-year hiatus as Chloe Brown’s penalty corner double started the run.

Sarah Patton – on debut – added another when she picked off an intercept on halfway and stormed into the circle to flick, 3-0 at half-time.

Sophie Barnwell scored the fourth, a lovely move along the left boards as Ali Meeke stepped over a long pass to open the passage to the forward. Amy Benson snapped up a rebound for the fifth and final goal.

“With all the history and not knowing Portugal at all, to come away with a result like that is everything we could have asked for,” said coach Dave Passmore after the win.

“A few players getting their first caps, the first time they had all played together competitively. We played some really good hockey and had a few other goals disallowed too.

“We defended well for periods and know we will have to up our game. We did get excited at the wrong times but that is all part of the learning curve and why we are here.”

Sophie Barnwell agreed, adding she is savouring the experience: “It is great coming to a new country, coming into the tournament not knowing what each team is going to do; it’s exciting.

“We were well prepared and the three newcomers stepped up really well. We definitely used things we worked on well – our fourth goal was textbook and hopefully we can bring that into our next games. Each game is a blank sheet!”

Game two proved much tougher against Spain – they already had recorded an 18-0 win over Slovenia – who swept into a 3-0 half-time lead courtesy of an Empar Gil hat trick. She added another in the second half before Orla Patton got an Irish consolation.

The Spaniards look a cut above the rest at the seven-nation tournament – with two promotion places on the line – with second place the likely target.

Saturday will be formative on that front, starting with a tricky game against hosts Slovakia at 11.30am (Irish time) before meeting Denmark at 4.15pm. The former have two wins from two to their name.

Sunday looks, on paper, to be handy enough with ties against very weak-looking Finland and Slovenia teams.

Women’s EuroHockey Indoor Championship III (Bratislava, Slovakia)

Friday: Ireland 5 (C Brown 2, S Patton, S Barnwell, A Benson) Portugal 0; Ireland 1 (O Patton) Spain 5 (E Gil 4, E Forte)

Saturday: Ireland v Slovakia, 11.30am; Ireland v Denmark, 4.15pm

Sunday: Ireland v Finland, 7.15am; Ireland v Slovenia, 11am

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