Ireland 1 (R Upton) Great Britain 2 (L Owsley, S Roberston)
Ireland were unable to hold on to an early lead as they fell 2-1 to reigning Olympic champions Great Britain in the first of three Softco Series games at Queen’s University.
Roisin Upton’s penalty stroke – won by Anna O’Flanagan – had the Green Army flying high in the early stages.
But GB fought back in the second half with Lily Owsley cracking home from mid-circle before Sarah Robertson provided the winner 14 minutes before the end.
While the series is uncapped, the matches provide both sides – who are set to meet in Tokyo later this summer – with some rare, quality international opposition due to ongoing restrictions.
The sides meet again on Sunday (5pm) and then again on Tuesday (3pm) with both teams set to make widespread changes as they work off panels of 25.
For Ireland, they handed first international experience to Muckross defender Sarah McAuley while they look forward to bringing in the likes of Chloe Watkins and Ayeisha McFerran for the latter matches.
Ireland: G O’Flanagan, S McCay, S McAuley, H Matthews, K Mullan, R Upton, S Hawkshaw, L Colvin, N Evans, A O’Flanagan, N Carroll
Subs: L Murphy, H McLoughlin, B Barr, M Frazer, M Carey, Z Malseed, S Torrans
Great Britain: M Hinch, S Robertson, S Evans, I Petter, S Townsend, L Owsley, L Unsworth, F Crackles, G Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb, A Toman
Subs: J Hunter, S Jones, S McCallin, L Wilkinson, G Balsdon
Umpires: A Keogh (IRL), E Duffy (IRL)
Ireland 2 (C Watkins, R Upton) Great Britain 1 (L Unsworth)
Ireland recorded a notable win over Great Britain to give a strong psychological boost to their fledgling Tokyo 2021 preparations as second half goals from Chloe Watkins and Roisin Upton saw them beat the reigning Olympic champions 2-1 at Queen’s.
While Sunday’s tie was uncapped, it was nonetheless significant with, pre-series, Shirley McCay hoping she could finally get one over the auld enemy in her 15-year tenure in green.
As such, it represents another monkey off their back against a side they will meet at the Olympics in a potentially pivotal group game.
The visitors did take the lead in the first half when Laura Unsworth got on the end of a smooth move, tipping in from Sarah Evans’ right wing cross.
But Ireland grew into the contest and were comfortable in the second half. An excellent turnover led to the equaliser as Lizzie Colvin picked off the ball 30 metres out and fed Watkins who taunted the British backline before unleashing a perfect reverse-stick finish.
Watkins was one of five changes to Saturday’s line-up with goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran coming back into the side and their influence was huge.
“Winning the game is obviously what the game is all about but I am more pleased with how we went about it,” Dancer said afterwards, hailing that Watkins influence.
“With the ball, I wanted us to be more aggressive, for the players to back themselves because we have some pretty skillful players.”
The series finishes on Tuesday afternoon at 3pm.
Ireland: A McFerran, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, B Barr, C Watkins, L Colvin, H Matthews, S Torrans, A O’Flanagan
Subs: L Murphy, M Carey, R Upton, H McLoughlin, S Hawkshaw, N Carey, D Duke
Great Britain: M Hinch, S Jones , S Evans, E Rayer, S Townsend, S McCallin, L Unsworth, L Wilkinson, L Neal, H Pearne-Webb, A Toman
Subs: S Robertson, I Petter, L Owsley, F Crackles, G Ansley
Umpires: A Keogh, L Coughlan