Ayeisha McFerran the shoot-out queen as Ireland qualify for first ever Olympics after hockey qualifying win over Canada
Ireland 0 Canada 0 (Ireland win 4-3 on penalties)
Ireland’s shoot-out queens guaranteed a very first women’s appearance at the Olympic Games as Ayeisha McFerran added to her place in hockey folklore with three vital saves when all looked lost.
The reverse parallels with the men’s ignominious exit seven days ago at the hands of the same opposition were huge.
After two hours of scoreless hockey, the shoot-out looked to be heading Canada's way when they took a 3-1 lead with two rounds to go.
Larne girl McFerran, though, saved everything that came her way while Harlequins' Beth Barr, Chloe Watkins and Roisin Upton showed nerves of ice to win the day 4-3 in sudden death.
McFerran and Barr were two of a six-strong Ulster contingent in the squad, joined by Beth's twin sister Serena, captain Katie Mullan, 300-cap Shirley McCay, Lizzie Colvin and Randalstown player-coach Zoe Wilson.
The win puts them straight through to Tokyo 2020 without recourse to the machinations of the South African Olympic committee, who had offered a fall-back option of sorts had this game gone south.
But these showdowns were the making of the Green Army last summer, the glorious dismissals of India and Spain highlighting the road to World Cup silver and while the two fixtures this weekend were largely forgettable, the finale will be another indelible memory.
It was all witnessed by over 12,000 fans – 6,086 on Saturday, 6,137 last night – record crowds for women's international team sport events in Ireland.
Those crowds offered perfect justification for the decision to bring the drop-in pitch to Energia Park in Donnybrook.
Opening night had been an exercise in frustration, the Dublin deluge leaving the pitch coated in water, making any sort of free-flowing hockey unmanageable. It made for a relatively chanceless 0-0, leaving everything on game two.
The second night, played in cooler but, crucially, drier conditions were far more conducive to a decent show and while the goals were slow to come, the show was far better entertainment.
After a couple of Anna O’Flanagan pot shots, Katie Mullan cleaned up Maddie Secco’s golden chance off Ayeisha McFerran from a Canadian penalty corner in the opening quarter.
The visitors, the underdogs ranked 15th in the world, were looking the more composed with Natalie Sourisseau’s composed elegance in midfield driving things while Amanda Woodcroft controlled the centre of defence.
It left Ireland going increasingly long and hopeful with Kaitlyn Williams untested between the posts. Canada’s more aggressive press – having been ultra-defensive in game one – caused plenty of consternation but also little joy in the circle as Lena Tice bossed the D.
Ireland’s best opening came from their second penalty corner early in the final quarter but Roisin Upton’s drag-flick was charged down.
Canada, for their part had two corners in the final 30 seconds after Tice was pinged for a deliberate slow-down of play.
In a clinch, Ireland came through with two big blocks and they duly used that reprieve in perfect fashion.
Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, B Barr, C Watkins, L Colvin, N Daly, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson
Subs: S Barr, N Evans, G Pinder, H Matthews, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, L Murphy
Canada: K Williams, K Wright, D Hennig, R Donohoe, K Johansen, N Sourisseau, S McManus, A Woodcroft, B Stairs, S Johnston, S Norlander
Subs: A Lee, E Wong, K Leahy, H Haughn, N Woodcroft, M Secco, R Harris
Umpires: A Rostron (RSA), M Meister (GER)
Belfast Telegraph Digital