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We still have a lot to learn, admits skipper Mullan

 

By John Flack

Ireland's women experienced a myriad of emotions on the last day of the EuroHockey Championship in Amsterdam as agony turned to relief on two counts.

Not only did they retain their top-flight status against the odds, but they later edged closer to a World Cup spot when the Netherlands, who have already qualified, beat Belgium 3-0 in the Euro final, leaving Ireland as first reserve.

The roller coaster ride began with an abject, error-ridden display in a humiliating 7-2 defeat to Spain which left the players distraught, knowing that a seemingly straightforward win for Scotland over the already-relegated Czech Republic would see Ireland join them in the second-tier.

However, the Czechs scored a shock 1-0 win to keep Ireland up before the hosts' win over Belgium left them needing the formality of either Australia or New Zealand winning the Oceanic Championship to make certain of their place in London next year.

However, a happy ending to the day should not be used to paper over the cracks that surfaced at the Euros, particularly in that horror-show against Spain.

Defensively Ireland were poor, gifting at least three preventable goals to the Spanish, and after twice drawing level through Anna O'Flanagan, they conceded within two minutes on both occasions - a worrying and familiar habit. 17 goals were conceded in the five games, almost half of the tally coming in the final quarter, suggesting mental and physical fatigue.

Ireland captain Katie Mullan said: "As one of our coaches said to us we'd have settled for a World Cup place and staying in the A division of Europe at the start of the year so I'm happy we've ticked those boxes.

"But we have still a lot to learn, and the girls will need to reflect and try to come back stronger as a team for the next tournament."

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