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Ireland girls taking nothing for granted in final push

By John Flack

If hockey history is anything to go by, Ireland should have few problems overcoming Wales in today's World League 2 semi-final in Kuala Lumpur (10.15am).

A win would guarantee Ireland a place in the final stage of qualifying for next year's World Cup.

Third place would also be enough but Ireland want to get the job done at the first time of asking, rather than having to beat tougher opposition in the shape of either hosts Malaysia or Italy, who meet in today's second semi-final.

Graham Shaw's side have won all eight of the teams' most recent meetings, dating back to 2008.

Ireland's most recent success came three years ago when they beat their Celtic neighbours 2-0 in a triangular tournament in Italy.

However, Wales have made decent progress since then and defeated two higher ranked nations - Austria and France - to advance to the penultimate stage of World Cup qualifying for the first time under the current format.

In Kuala Lumpur, Wales recovered from an opening loss to Italy and went on to beat Singapore, Thailand and Kazakhstan while Ireland have scored 34 goals in their four games to date.

However, head coach Shaw is taking nothing for granted despite the fact the Welsh are ranked 16 places lower on the world list.

The former Annadale player said: "Wales have played well in this tournament and improved as it has progressed.

"They have good tight skills, are very fit and have a strong defence but we are looking forward to the challenge."

Ulster goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran is confident Ireland have what it takes.

She commented: "I think we have the basic skills and fitness levels to get the right result against Wales and make it a busy summer with the next stage of qualifying to come."

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