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Dancer backs Ireland to seal series success

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Ireland coach Sean Dancer

Ireland coach Sean Dancer

�INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Ireland coach Sean Dancer

Ireland women's hockey coach Sean Dancer will have another opportunity to get one over his former mentor when his team take on Great Britain in the final game of the three-match series at the Dub today (3pm).

The Irish stunned the Olympic champions on Sunday with an historic 2-1 win to set up this afternoon's series decider.

It was Ireland's first-ever victory over GB who, unlike Ireland, are full-time professionals and, along with their men's team, have a combined £18 million budget spanning the four-year Olympic cycle since Rio 2016.

In contrast, the Irish players train on a part-time basis up to four days a week, helped by generous sponsorship from SoftCo and Park Developments.

Dancer took over the Irish job in 2018, replacing Graham Shaw, having been assistant to New Zealand coach Mark Hager, who is now the British coach.

In the last Olympics, with Hager and Dancer in the same dug-out, New Zealand narrowly missed out on a podium finish, being pipped by Germany for the bronze medals.

The Ireland boss was delighted with his team's display on Sunday after his charges lost the opening game of the series 2-1 on Saturday, having taken an early lead.

The Sydney native said: "Winning Sunday's game was obviously what it's all about but I was more pleased with how we went about it.

"With the ball, I wanted us to be more aggressive, for the players to back themselves because we have some pretty skilful players. We talked about really stepping it up and taking it to GB before the second game and, obviously, we want to win the series now."

Dancer has introduced a more attacking strategy since taking over the reins and it paid dividends on Sunday, with a sublime finish by Chloe Watkins and a penalty conversion from Roisin Upton, after a magical run by Anna O'Flanagan, sealing the win in the second-half after GB's opener.

Hager was disappointed about the manner of the defeat after GB failed to make their early pressure pay as Lena Tice, with a spectacular clearance, and Ayeisha McFerran, with a series of superb stops, kept the gold medallists at bay.

The Australian said: "The main thing we took from the game was that we need to take our chances but Ireland took theirs, so all credit to them.

"We will make changes for the final game and hopefully we can get the win, although we are here to concentrate more on performance."

Belfast Telegraph


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