Ireland run-up lively win over China as O’Flanagan returns and Tice and Wilson hit 100

Women’s international test match

Ireland 4 (N Evans, S McCay, Z Wilson, C Watkins) China 2 (X Xiayun, X Song)

Ireland’s women ran up a lively 4-2 victory over China on Sunday evening at Belfield as they ramp up their preparations for November’s Olympic qualifying ties against Canada.

It was a first win against the Chinese from four meetings since 2015, an entertaining win in front of a healthy crowd at Belfield.

The match saw Grace O’Flanagan make her return to action in a first appearance of any kind since the 2018 World Cup final having taken a break from the game while Lena Tica and Zoe Wilson both won their 100th caps.

Despite a string of penalty corners awarded in Ireland’s favour in the opening quarter, it was China who were first to get themselves on the scoreboard with Xiayun Xi on the mark.

Chinese goalkeeper Dongxiao Li had done well to prevent Ireland taking an early lead while Tice and Yvonne O’Byrne were strong in defence to keep the visitors at bay. The quarter ended with a chance for Nikki Evans going wide leaving the sides level as the buzzer went.

Roisin Upton did well to keep a shot from Peng from adding to China’s lead, with Evans securing the equaliser moments later. China secured a number of penalty corners in the minutes that followed, but Grace O’Flanagan was in control and had Hannah Matthews and Katie Mullan on hand to help dilute the threat; 1-1 at half-time.

In the second half, Nicci Daly fired the first warning shot with Dongxiao Li saving again. A chance for Deirdre Duke resulted in the goalkeeper coming out to meet her and Duke securing a penalty corner for Ireland.

Matthews inserted and Upton dummied with McCay finishing it off, finding the backboard for a 2-1 lead. They moved further in front in the fourth quarter via Zoe Wilson from another corner.

China fought back via Xiaoming Song managed to tap the ball over Lizzie Murphy’s shoulder from a rebound moments later to bring the score to 3-2.

But Ireland clinched the win in the closing minutes when Chloe Watkins found herself just inside the Chinese circle with a chance. A lovely clean shot sailed home for 4-2 with four minutes to go.

The two sides will meet again on Tuesday in an uncapped challenge match before closing out the series on Thursday evening at 8pm. The venue was initially pencilled in to be at the National Sports Campus but has now been switched to Belfield.

Ireland: G O’Flanagan, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, C Watkins, L Colvin, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson

Subs: Y O’Byrne, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, E Curran, L Murphy, G Pinder

China: L Dongxiao, X Zhang, Y Chen, Q Guo, Jiaqi Zhong, Jinrong Zhang, Z Ou, Q Cui, B Gu, M Liang

Subs: W Xu, Y Peng, X Song, H Li, X Xi, J Li

Partners of The Hook