Ireland’s women earned European indoor promotion at the first attempt after they romped over the line in Bratislava, earning them a silver medal from the third tier of continental competition with two big wins on Sunday..
It was their first tournament entry in 30 years but coach Dave Passmore – like John Jackson from the men a week ago – believes this success can provide a launchpad for greater commitment to the short-form of the game.
“Working with great people is always rewarding but working with this bunch has been an absolute pleasure,” he said. “They’ve come so far in such a short period of time, playing really good team indoor hockey.
“We have varied our tactics in every game and they’ve reaped the rewards. Hopefully this is something we and Hockey Ireland can build on for the future.”
Needing to defeat the bottom two ranked sides on Sunday, Ireland had their fate in their own hands and showed no qualms about making the most of the situation.
The hapless Finland – who ended with a goal difference of minus 78 – were beaten 15-0 in the first game of the day with a double from Naomi Carroll and a corner from Orla Fox putting them 3-0 up after five minutes. Chloe Brown top scored with four and Carroll ended with a hat trick.
That put them on the brink and Slovenia were duly dispatched with minimal fuss with four goals coming in the first six minutes, dissipating any nerves as Carroll, Amy Benson and another two Brown goals led the way.
Two from Ali Meeke and one each from Sophie Barnwell and Sarah Patton made it 8-0 before the Slovenians got a couple back but Orla Patton closed out a famous tournament with a ninth goal for a 9-2 success.
To formally see second place assured, they had to wait a few hours to see if Spain could avoid a 19-goal defeat to Portugal – the Spaniards ran up a 12-0 win to underline their dominance of the event, finishing with a plus goal difference of 79.
Ireland were next on 15 points and a strong scoring difference, netting the only goal Spain conceded over the course of the competition. It assures Ireland of a place in the second tier in 2020 alongside the likes of Scotland, Poland, Lithuania and Croatia.
Elsewhere, Ards landed the Ulster indoor title for a ninth successive season. They were understrength by virtue of their international call-ups for what was a hastily arranged competition.
Without a hall booked in time, the Ulster tournament initially looked set to be scrapped but was put back on the agenda for this Sunday and they came out on top against North Down (4-0), Lisnagarvey (2-1) and Queen’s (3-2).
They will play Muckross in the women’s semi-finals next Sunday (12.30pm) in Galway with Railway Union facing Connacht champions Galway (11.30am) at the Kingfisher Hall.
The National Indoor Trophy final will be on at 4.45pm with the bronze medal game at 2.30pm.
Ireland squad: M Regan, H Humphreys, A Meeke, O Patton, O Fox, S Patton, C Adams, A Benson, N Carroll, E Getty, S Barnwell, C Brown
EuroHockey Championships III (Bratislava, Slovakia)
Sunday results: Ireland 15 (C Brown 4, N Carroll 3, A Benson 2, O Fox 2, E Getty, S Barnwell, S Patton, O Patton) Finland 0; Ireland 9 (C Brown 2, A Meeke 2, N Carroll, A Benson, O Patton, S Barnwell, S Patton) Slovenia 2 (A Rituper 2)
Final standings: 1. Spain 18pts 2. Ireland 15pts 3. Portugal 12pts 4. Slovakia 9pts 5. Denmark 6pts 6. Slovenia 3pts 7. Finland 0pts