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Irish girls on top of the World after lifting gold

Ireland 3-0 Malaysia

By John Flack

Ireland's women completed their World League 2 campaign by winning yesterday's final with a superb 3-0 victory over Malaysia in a packed stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

They now go forward to the final stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in either South Africa or Belgium in the summer and may overtake Italy, who finished third overall, in the world rankings and move up to 15th place.

Yesterday's result completed a near-perfect tournament for Graham Shaw's side and the gold medals weren't the only piece of extra baggage on the flight home.

Anna O'Flanagan collected the player of the tournament award and the leading scorer accolade while Ulster's Ayeisha McFerran, who saved a penalty stroke yesterday, was named best goalkeeper.

Ireland finished the tournament with six wins out of six and scored 39 goals with only one conceded - in the 2-1 victory over Malaysia in the group stages.

Yesterday, O'Flanagan hit her 12th goal of the tournament with Ulster's Katie Mullan, who wore the captain's armband, and Randalstown's Zoe Wilson also on target.

Wilson started every match and capped her 26th senior international appearance with the decisive third goal yesterday.

"What an experience my first competitive tournament has been and I have gained so much experience having to adjust to the heat and humidity, fully appreciating how fitness levels impact in this sort of environment," said the 19-year-old defender.

"Playing against the home team in a noisy and packed stadium was an unforgettable experience that I hope will stand me in good stead in the future.

"We are really excited to have qualified for World League 3 and we will have a busy summer ahead with the European Championship as well but I'm really looking forward to it."

O'Flanagan broke the deadlock in the seventh minute from a Chloe Watkins cross and Mullan scored on the reverse three minutes later before Wilson wrapped it up five minutes after the break.

Assistant coach Arlene Boyles added: "It was a great day for everyone involved and the girls were outstanding in their preparation and their play.

"We are not sure where we will be going for the World League 3 series yet but we will be pressing the powers that be to find out so we can prepare accordingly."

However, it seems likely that the tournament will be held in Johannesburg in July when Ireland will be joined by nine other nations.

On Saturday, Yvonne O'Byrne and O'Flanagan scored in a 2-0 semi-final win over Wales which clinched the top-two finish required to progress to the next stage of World Cup qualifying.

Results: yesterday: Ulster Indoor Championship: Queen's 4 Harlequins 3; Ards 9 Randalstown 1; Ards 5 Harlequins 0; Queen's 5 Randalstown 3; Harlequins 4 Randalstown 2; Queen's 4 Ards 5 (Ards and Queen's qualify for all-Ireland championship).

Saturday: Ulster Premier League: Lurgan 0 Lisnagarvey 1 (S Colgan); Queen's 1 (S McCullough) Banbridge 1 (R Kerr); Randalstown 3 (K Coulter 2, C McGrillen) Dungannon 3 (K Elliott, L Kennedy, L White); Portadown 2 (L Cassells, L McKimm) North Down 1 ( L Clarke).

Senior One: Ballymena 2 (C Gillespie 2) Ballyclare 0; CI Ladies 3 (L Ternahan, L Mercer, J Maghie) Cookstown 0; Larne 2 (J Finch 2) Victorians 3 (E Conlin 2, R Hewitt); Mossley 9 (S McDowell 3, Z McIlwaine 3, L McKee, A Jones, M Dougan) Armagh 0.

Belfast Telegraph

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