Gene Muller’s experimental Irish line-up pointed to a bright future as he handed debuts to four players as Ireland shook off the Setanta Trophy difficulties to win 3-1 against France at a sodden Garryduff.
Hermes Emma Gray started between the posts while Megan Frazer, Lizzie Colvin and Michelle Harvey all appeared off the bench to earn their first caps as Ireland dominated the opening half.
Emma Stewart opened the scoring after just 15 minutes, flicking home a rebound after Cliodhna Sargent’s initial shot was blocked. And it was debutante Harvey who doubled the advantage, driving in from another penalty corner as Ireland’s newly formed set-up at the top of the D paid instant dividends in the absence of more seasoned internationals.
Indeed, the French side grew impatient, having to wait long periods to regain possession and that frustration boiled over with Ophelie Richard yellow-carded for felling Emma Clarke and Juliette Hevin following her to the bin for a foul on Shirley McCay.
The chances continued to flow in the second period. Hollie Moffet hit the crossbar before drawing a smart save from Anabelle Got. Philippine Berly came close to opening the French account, capitalising on defensive error, beating Gray in the one-on-one but Stewart raced back to clear off the line.
It helped the French find some rhythm as Ireland began to struggle midway through the half and the hosts were reduced to nine women when both McCay and Lisa Jacob were binned. They were duly punished for their indiscrepancies on 58 minutes when Celine Oréfice dribbled into the circle, and her shot was turned home at the far post by Sunita D’Halluin.
Ireland rallied, though, and sealed the win four minutes from the end when the returning Jacob turned home Louisa Moore’s cross at the near post.In the earlier match, Scotland opened their Celtic Cup campaign with a 1-0 win over Wales, Holly Cram netting the winner.