Women boosted by Italian victory
Ireland's women are on course to maintain their Division A status in the Eurohockey Nations Cup following their 3-0 success over Italy yesterday.
Gene Muller's girls got over defeats against England (3-0) and Holland (6-0) to bounce back in style against the fiery Italians.
Goals from Cathy McKean, Nikki Symmons and Ulster girl Jenny McDonough lifted the gloom after the harsh lessons handed to them by the Dutch and now they can look forward to the two games against opposition from the other pool - Ukraine on Thursday (noon) and Azerbaijan on Saturday (2pm) - to decide their fate in the 5th to 8th play-offs.
It's a complicated points system which is operating this season, and the easiest way to explain it is that after the pool games the top two from each go through to the semi-finals and the bottom two from each go into the 5th-8th play-offs.
"The win over Italy was important for us," admitted coach Muller.
"It was satisfying the way the girls took to the challenge and effectively we have accomplished the first part of our mission. If we beat Ukraine tomorrow we will have succeeded in our primary aim.
"Ukraine can be unpredictable, but the girls will be more relaxed after the Italian success, and it's also nice to report we have no injury problems at the moment."
The Irish nerves were eased after just 11 minutes when McKean finished off a good left wing move to put her team ahead and they were well worth their interval lead despite Italy giving them a double scare - first when it needed Clare Parkhill to turn away a shot and when Augustina di Bernardo's shot beat goalkeeper Mary Goode but came back off the post.
Seven minutes into the second half and Ireland doubled their score when Symmons converted a penalty corner variation, although it needed goalkeeper Goode to stop shots from Maria Victoria Crosa and Stella Giratti at the other end.
But McDonough, Ireland's most creative player, began to find gaps in the Italian defence and after deflecting a Nikki Symmons cross narrowly wide, she got the third goal by finishing off another Symmons cross.
IRELAND: M Goode, C O'Brien, J Orbinson, B McKeever, E Cregan, E Stewart, L Caulfield, E Clarke, N Symmons, C McDonough, C McKean. Subs: S MCCay, R Flinn, C Parkhill, J O'Halloran, L Healy.
Eurohockey Nations Cup (Women): Pool A: Ireland 3 Italy 0; England 0 Netherlands 1. Pool B: Ukraine 1 Azerbaijan 3; Germany 1 Spain 0