Mullan and Upton take big positives from Softco Series

Softco Series  

Ireland 1 (R Upton) Great Britain 1 (I Petter)  

Having never beaten Great Britain before Sunday, Ireland’s women came within four minutes of repeating the trick two days later only for Izzy Petter to intervene and cancel out yet another Roisin Upton penalty stroke.  

It split the difference from the three-game, uncapped Softo Series with honours even on all counts down to goals scored and conceded with the reigning Olympic champions.  

“There’s so many positives for us,” skipper Katie Mullan said afterwards. “We’ve gone through a lot of tough training for the last couple of months and you never know where you stand until you go out and play.   

“These days are about learning; those days in the summer are about peaking and we have to peak this summer. We are ready and excited for it and you can see that with what we did on the pitch.” 

Upton, the stand-out player from the series, concurred:  “Immediate response is disappointment to the third game, the opportunity was there to win it by a couple. But, in general, it’s been a fantastic four days, and we’ll take a lot of confidence into whatever comes next. 

“We’ve been training hard over the last eight months after we came out of lockdown in September, so it’s been great to have these games to get tested against the best. They’re the reigning Olympic champions and we’ve got three fantastic games in the bag now that we can reflect on and look back on. There’ll be a lot of take away, it’s been a good four days.” 

It was similarly successful from a promotional outlook with the BBC recording nearly 200,000 view of their three streams. RTE2’s broadcast of Sunday’s game drew a peak audience of 53,000, a decent showing with Virgin Media’s Six Nations coverage scooping most of viewers.

For coach Sean Dancer, there was a lot to enjoy, particularly in this third game, when Ireland had the clear ascendancy for long periods as they tested a number of different arrangements.  

He will be concerned by the lack of outcomes from their 13 penalty corners but bouyed by the performances of uncapped duo Sarah McAuley in defence and Michelle Carey whose range of 3D skills and serious engine were highlights.  

Defensively, bar a late aberration, the experiment of slotting Megan Frazer into a deeper-lying defensive role looked strong in tandem with Roisin Upton and Lena Tice as Dancer makes plans to cope in the absence of ACL injury victim Zoe Wilson.  

Katie Mullan was also used extensively in midfield with Gillian Pinder opting out of the panel for work reasons for the forseeable future.  

And, on Sunday, Ireland did get over a major psychologicial hurdle of a win against a side Ireland will meet in Tokyo later this summer in the Olympic group stages. Indeed, it was 1990 when Ireland last beat England from which at least 80% of the GB panel is drawn.  

In game three, Anna O’Flanagan was typically lively early on, twice wriggling out of trouble to draw good blocks from FIH World Goalkeeper of the Year Maddie Hinch.  

GB’s threat was fleeting though Petter should have done better with their one clean chance of the half, getting in a tangle when she elected to slide toward a cross when she could have stayed upright for a simple finish.  

As time wore on, Ireland’s corner count mounted into double figures but without much threat, perhaps keeping their main set pieces under wraps given the bigger picture.  

Eventually the goal came from corner number 13, Carey’s close-range poke half-stopped by Hinch but fell onto the foot of Giselle Ansley. For a third successive game, Roisin Upton flicked home the ensuing penalty stroke, this time going right with Hinch going the other way, predicting a repeat of her two previous shots.  

But they could not hold on as Frazer’s loose clearance fell directly to Petter and she coolly turned on her reverse and slipped home for 1-1 with time running out.  

Ireland: A McFerran, Z Malseed, R Upton, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, C Watkins, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, S McAuley  

Subs: M Carey, M Frazer, G O’Flanagan, N Daly, H Matthews, S Torrans, N Carey, D Duke  

Great Britain: M Hinch S Robertson, I Petter, L Owsley, F Crackles, E Rayer, S McCallin, L Unsworth, G Balsdon, H Pearne-Webb, A Costello  

Subs: G Ansley, J Hunter, S Evans, S Townsend, L Wilkinson, S Heesh, E Burge  

Umpires: R Abbott, L Coughlan  

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