Heavy South Africa loss adds to Irish misery
Ireland 0-4 South Africa
Ireland's Olympic qualifying campaign ended on a painful note in more ways than one as a 4-0 defeat by South Africa yesterday left them in eighth place at the World League 3 tournament in Valencia.
UCD striker Nikki Evans sustained a nasty facial injury in the dying minutes of the game as Ireland finished the game with just 13 fit outfield players.
Ireland went into the game already two players short after Ulster's Shirley McCay was handed a suspension after earlier receiving three yellow cards and Chloe Watkins was sidelined due to heat exhaustion.
It was a sorry end to a tournament which had promised so much after Ireland had topped their group following wins over higher-ranked nations in South Africa and USA.
But they were outplayed by both teams in the rematches, losing 6-1 to the Americans on Saturday and then suffering another seven goal turnaround yesterday following their opening 4-1 win over South Africa.
Ireland looked dead on their feet in their last two matches as they failed to recover mentally and physically from the heartache of missing out on a place in Rio 2016 after losing on penalties to China in the quarter-finals.
"We put in some good performances in the Pool games but in this tournament it means nothing to top your group," admitted team captain Megan Frazer. "We dug our heels in after the China game and we've tried to put in good performances but we've run out of steam at the end."
Yesterday's game was coach Darren Smith's last in charge and he has high hopes that he has left a positive legacy.
With an average age of under 25 in the current squad and retirements unlikely in the short-term, he believes reaching the 2017 World Cup - now increased to 16 teams - is well within Ireland's grasp.
"The girls have better hockey in front of them than what they have behind them - our captain's 23 and has been one of the best players in the tournament."
Results: Saturday: 5th-8th place: Ireland 1 (A, O'Flanagan) USA 6; yesterday: 7th-8th place: Ireland 0 South Africa 4; 5th-6th: Spain 1 USA 3; 3rd-4th: Germany 1 Argentina 1 (Germany won 3-1 on pens) ; final: Great Britain 2 China 0.