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Ayeisha McFerran the star as Ireland grab gold in penalty drama


Champions: Ireland’s Megan Frazer leads the celebrations after the Hockey World League 2 Final

Champions: Ireland’s Megan Frazer leads the celebrations after the Hockey World League 2 Final

Champions: Ireland’s Megan Frazer leads the celebrations after the Hockey World League 2 Final

Pegasus goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran was the heroine in Dublin yesterday as Ireland claimed the gold medals at the World League 2 tournament with a dramatic 4-3 penalty shoot out win over Canada which followed a 2-2 draw.

McFerran took on the role of super sub after being introduced in the last minute of the game as it headed for stalemate due to her prowess in the ice hockey style one-on-one shoot outs.

It proved to be a smart move by national coach Darren Smith, who took a leaf out of former Dutch football coach Louis van Gaal, who had a similar and equally successful brainwave at a World Cup game in the summer.

The Larne teenager saved Canada's last effort superbly and that left Aine Connery needing to score to clinch the hosts the gold medals which she did clinically.

It was a case of mission accomplished going into the game as Ireland had already reached the nest stage of the qualifying process for the Rio 2016 Olympics by virtue of Saturday's 7-0 semi-final win over Belarus.

That will take place in Valencia in June when Ireland will face much tougher opposition as they strive for the top six finish which would take them to Brazil.

In truth, Megan Frazer's team rarely replicated the form they showed in Saturday's game yesterday against a workmanlike Canadian side, who lost the corresponding pool match 2-1 a week earlier.

They made a blistering start, however, and could have been 2-0 by the first quarter after Ulster's Katie Mullan had a shot taken off the line and Nikki Evans had an effort well saved.

In the 25th minute, Gillian Pinder set up Kate Dillon for another opportunity but her first time shot flashed just past the upright.

But Canada, having survived those scares, looked dangerous on the break and from one swift counter attack Emma Gray had to save well from Rosie Beale.

Within a minute of the start of the second half, Ireland took the lead when Evans reacted quickest to convert a penalty corner rebound. But Canada leveled matters six minutes later when Holly Stewart deflected a set piece high into the net.

Nicci Daly then had a penalty corner well saved by the Canadian keeper as the game entered the final 15 minutes.

With four minutes left Sargent shot wide at another set piece and then Gray brought off an excellent reaction save at a corner in the 58th minute.

Ireland had a chance to win it in the dying seconds when they were awarded another corner but the danger was cleared and it was left to McFerran to take centre stage in the shoot out.

Meanwhile at domestic level, Belfast Harlequins will need to avoid a four goal margin of defeat by Pegasus on Wednesday night to avoid the possibility of a relegation play-off.

That was after they were thrashed 8-0 by newly crowned Premier League champions Ards on Saturday.

Earlier in the day Lisnagarvey had moved level on 13 points with Quins after drawing 1-1 with Lurgan at Comber Road.

Deposed champions Pegasus made it back-to-back wins over Queen's as they followed up their midweek win with a 3-1 success on Saturday.

Results: World League 2: Sunday: 7th-8th: Ukraine 2 Turkey; 5th-6th: Austria 2 Lithuania; 3rd-4th: Chile 3 Belarus 2 final: Ireland 1 Canada 1 (Ireland won 4-3 on penalties) ; Saturday: semi-finals: Ireland 7 (N. Evans 2, M. Frazer, A. O'Flanagan, N. Carroll, E. Smith, K. Mullan) Belarus 0; Canada 5 Chile 4. Ulster Premier League: Belfast Harlequins 0 Ards 8 (C. Brown 3, R. Barton 2, A. Benson 2, K. McDonald); Lisnagarvey 1 (J. Kirkwood) Lurgan 1 (S. McClure); Queen's 1 (H. McMillan) Pegasus 3 (S. Ferris, A. Speers, S. Thompson); Senior One: Armagh 4 (S. Knipe, K. Glass 2, H. Irwin) Ballymena 0.

Belfast Telegraph