Green Army strike twice in closing four minutes for merited draw with USA

Women’s senior international
USA 2 (K Sharkey, J Witmer) Ireland 2 (H Matthews, A O’Flanagan)
Two goals in the closing four minutes saw Ireland close out their series in the US with a well merited draw against the world number six side after two losses earlier in the trip.

It came in a thrilling closing phase in which USA first punished Ireland for removing goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran to create an attacking overload. But Ireland then used the extra player to great use, winning a corner that Hannah Matthews swept in from an Anna O’Flanagan spin and pass.

Emily Beatty and Melissa Gonzalez battle for possession. Pic: Mark Palczewski

O’Flanagan then showed quick reflexes with two minutes to go as Shirley McCay – the bibbed player – slapped a ball into the circle which Ali Froede completely lost her bearings on.

Under little pressure, she contrived to lift her stick while letting the ball hit her foot; O’Flanagan thrives on such half chances and picked off the ball and slipped in past Aleisha Widdall.

Early on, the Green Army made a top start with two early chances. Indeed, O’Flanagan’s shot was scrambled over the line by Deirdre Duke, unfortunately with her back stick, while Nicci Daly shot over and Emma Russell’s first-time strike also caused danger.

It rattled the US more than the other ties but they did find their feet again in a close-knit second quarter that featured the weekend’s best piece of inspiration. It came from Kat Sharkey – probably the stand-out performer along with Michelle Vittese – who got around McCay before slipping the ball under Grace O’Flanagan’s elbow.

That bite was not going to make the goal line but Sharkey recovered to jump at the ball and chip it away from Lena Tice’s efforts to clear the ball, 1-0.

Nikki Evans and Loren Shealy. Pic: Mark Palczewski

The third period was similarly tight with Sharkey having the two best chances, one saved by McFerran, who came on at half-time, while the second was too high from a corner hit.

McFerran also did well to put off Jill Witmer, using her stick to tip onto the striker’s body from a lively opening. The goalkeeper was withdrawn soon after, kick-starting the late drama and Ireland grabbing a strong result for their efforts.

USA: A Widdall, M Gonzalez, M Vittese, J Witmer, T West, A Hoffman, J Young, L Moyer, K Ginolfi, K Sharkey, C van Sickle
Subs: E Matson, L Shealy, A Magadan, A Froede, N Woods, A Manley

Ireland: G O’Flanagan, Y O’Byrne, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, S Loughran, C Watkins, N Daly, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke
Subs: N Evans, E Beatty, G Pinder, H Matthews, E Russell, A Meeke, A McFerran

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