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Ireland draw the sting from USA with a slick late show

 

By John Flack

Ireland's women saved the best to last as they salvaged a morale-boosting 2-2 draw against the United States with two goals in the last four minutes in Philadelphia to avoid a series whitewash against the world ranked number six side.

Having lost the first two games against the Americans, a hat-trick of defeats looked inevitable as they trailed 2-0 after gambling by taking off Ulster goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran in order to have an extra outfield player.

However, late goals from Hannah Matthews and Anna O'Flanagan after USA had scored into the empty net to double their lead, rescued Graham Shaw's side a draw that they thoroughly deserved.

The national coach said: "We were really pleased with our overall performance in the three tests and there were some outstanding individual displays."

"We know what we have to hone in on in the next three weeks before we head to Berlin for a Four Nations tournament."

Kat Sharkey gave the hosts the lead in the first-half with a well-taken goal as Ireland failed to make their superior possession stats count.

They continued to have the edge after the break but could find no way past the American defence and they took off McFerran with six minutes left with her Ulster colleague Shirley McCay taking over as a kicking-back.

Within two minutes, the ploy looked to have badly backfired as Jill Wittmer was able to walk the ball into the unguarded net to make it 2-0.

However, from a twice-taken penalty-corner in the 66th minute, O'Flanagan's pass was converted by Matthews at the far post to give Ireland some hope.

Two minutes later, McCay threw caution to the wind as she joined the attack and her crash-ball into the circle was knocked home by O'Flanagan for the equaliser after an American defender had botched an attempted clearance.

On a more negative note, Ards striker Chloe Brown remains an injury doubt for the upcoming World Cup qualifier in Johannesburg in July.

She was forced to sit out the entire three-match series after aggravating an ankle injury during a warm-up match against the US U-21 side.

Meanwhile, the Ireland U-21s went through their series with Wales in Dublin unbeaten, drawing 0-0 yesterday after earlier 3-0 and 4-1 wins.

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