Ireland on brink of second place and promotion in Slovakia

Ireland’s indoor women put themselves in a super position to land one of the two promotion spots on offer in Slovakia as they beat the hosts in a thriller before seeing off Denmark.

It means their tournament fate remains in their own hands with Sunday wins over bottom pair Finland (7.15am, Irish time) and Slovenia (11am).

It started with a thrilling 4-3 success against the Slovaks. Amy Benson deflected in Sophie Barnwell’s cross for the only goal of the first quarter but the hosts replied with three goals in almost as many minutes to flip it to a 3-1 scoreline in the second quarter.

Ireland pounced, however, with two goals in the minute before half-time. First, Sarah Patton raced away with a free from right back and going all the way. Moments later, a well-worked platform – when Slovakia were down a player – to the free player Naomi Carroll in the left corner and she flicked in.

It was 3-3 at half-time and Dave Passmore’s side had their chances to eke out a lead but could not convert from their four corners. Nonetheless, Benson popped up with a scrappy fourth just before the end of the third quarter at the second bite for a pivotal lead.

They held on for a the last quarter, breaking Slovakia’s winning streak.

“Delighted with the performance more than the result as we played some super indoor hockey,” Passmore said of the game. “Better than we have before and apart from letting our heads drop after the first goal, which led to three goals in three minutes, we dominated most of the game, breaking fast.

“Our corners didn’t fire so that’s something we need to get right.”

Naomi Carroll says she is loving the high octane indoor experience, adding: “We came over not knowing what to expect and no footage of the other teams but still with the aim of being promoted. We got a really good start against Portugal, seeing some of the things we worked on in training working for us.

“Spain were tough in the evening and we always knew they were going to be good. They were very strong. It meant we had to refocus this morning and got a great 4-3 win. It didn’t all go to plan at the start but showed a lot of determination and grit to comeback and then to hold out to win it.”

The win over Denmark was a composed slow-burner. Sarah Patton finished off the first just before the quarter-time break as Carroll was found in behind and they worked the two-on-one with the goalkeeper perfectly.

Benson was ready in her typical poacher’s position for the second early in the second half, finishing off at the right post for 2-0. Carroll turned in the third and Sophie Barnwell completed the victory in the closing quarter.

Reflecting on this one, Passmore said: “This was a potentially tricky tie against a good, athletic indoor side who have struggled to get the results they deserved.

“I was really pleased with the performance because having been so good with the ball this morning, we defended really well and Denmark struggled to create any open chances throughout and that included Hannah Humphreys mopping up at the back.

“Our understanding of thinking where the next pass needs to go and moving into good positions means we are a real threat in attack but our corners need to improve.

“Tomorrow is a tough day with an early start and little time between matches but the girls have been super professional so I expect that to continue. We have to keep our standards high against Finland and play one quarter at a time.”

The Finns should, on paper, pose few problems having conceded 50 goals in four games thus far. Slovenia have been marginally better but have just one win from four – against Finland.

Spain, meanwhile, are on the road to gold with four wins and 58 goals scored, conceding just once – Orla Patton’s goal for Ireland.

EuroHockey Indoor Championship III (Bratislava, Slovakia) – day two results: Ireland 4 (A Benson 2, S Patton, N Carroll) Slovakia 3 (S Medvikova, N Fondrkova, G Surinova); Ireland 4 (S Patton, A Benson, N Carroll, S Barnwell) Denmark 0

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