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Anna nets 50th goal as Irish girls breeze into World League semis

Ireland 10 Singapore 0

By John Flack

The Ireland women's hockey team are 60 minutes away from achieving their objective of securing a place in the final stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup after thrashing Singapore 10-0 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

A win over Wales in the semi-final of the World League 2 tournament tomorrow would clinch Ireland the top-two finish they require to progress and confidence in the camp will justifiably be high that they can reach their goal.

The Welsh struggled to beat Kazakhstan 2-1 in the quarter-finals yesterday and it took a late strike for them to defeat a side that Ireland had crushed 12-0 in their opening match last Saturday.

Wales are ranked 32nd in the world - 16 places below the Irish, who have now scored 34 goals in their four matches in the Malaysian capital.

Yesterday, Monkstown's Anna O'Flanagan achieved a memorable milestone when she scored her 50th goal for her country, leaving her just 15 behind former Ballymoney and Ireland captain Lynsey McVicker, who retired from international hockey in 2005.

Ireland, with all five Ulster players starting, were in total control against Singapore and, indeed, had a first-half possession stat of 92 per cent against opposition who were clearly in damage limitation mode.

However, assistant national coach and former Pegasus boss Arlene Boyles was delighted at the performance, which she says augurs well for the remainder of the tournament. She said: "It was a great result no matter how poor the opposition were and we are working the ball well and getting goals which bodes well for Saturday's semi-final.

"Playing in the early slot around midday meant there was intense heat and high humidity but the girls' fitness levels paid dividends in tough conditions."

Naomi Carroll, Rebecca Barry, O'Flanagan and Roisin Upton, who got two, were on target in the first-half.

O'Flanagan and Upton both completed hat-tricks after the break with Nicci Daly and Ulster's Katie Mullan, who was captain for the day, also on the mark

Quarter-final results: Ireland 10 (N Carroll, R Barry, R Upton 3, A O'Flanagan 3, N Daly, K Mullan) Singapore 0; Italy 7 Hong Kong 0; Wales 2 Kazakhstan 1; Malaysia 3 Thailand 0.

Semi-finals (tomorrow): Ireland v Wales (1015am UK time); Malaysia v Italy (12.30pm).

Meanwhile, the programme for the Ireland men's World League 2 series at Stormont in March has been released, and as expected the Green Machine - ranked 10 in the world - have been pooled with Austria (21), Ukraine (26) and Italy (36), with France (17), Poland (19), Scotland (28) and Wales (34) in the other pool.

Craig Fulton's lads open their campaign against Ukraine on Saturday, March 11 and follow that up against Austria on the Sunday and Italy on the Tuesday.

The quarter-finals are on Thursday, March 16 and the classification places on the Saturday and Sunday.

The Irish need to finish in the top three to qualify for World League 3, which is the final qualifying round for the 2018 World Cup finals.

Belfast Telegraph

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