Defeat casts a cloud over Irish union's anniversary
Spain 7 Ireland 0
On the day that hockey in Ireland celebrated a memorable anniversary, the women's team were unable to put the icing on the cake as they slumped to a disappointing 7-0 defeat against Spain on the Costa del Sol.
It was 125 years ago to the very day that the sport's governing body, originally known as the Irish Hockey Union, was formed.
And major strides have been made since then, with the senior men's international team reaching the Rio Olympics in 2016 and both the men and women currently preparing for their respective World Cups in India and England.
The Irish women are using the four-match series in Benalmadena to prepare for their World series in the summer, so they will be looking for marked improvement after yesterday's heavy loss.
Graham Shaw's girls were quickly on the back foot as they conceded two goals in the opening 10 minutes of the game as Lucia Jiminez and Berta Bonastre scored to put the hosts in control.
Ards striker Chloe Brown very nearly got the Irish on the scoreboard on the stroke of half-time after their most-capped player Shirley McCay had earlier been denied by the keeper.
But Bonastre got her second goal from the penalty spot to make it 3-0 early in the second half and the Spanish put the game to bed with four more goals in the final quarter.
Begona Garcia scored with two backhand efforts and Lola Riera added a set-piece before Maialen Garcia completed Ireland's misery in the final minute.
The Irish continue their preparations with further games against Spain tomorrow (12pm), Saturday (11am) and Sunday (11am) before returning home.
Six Ulster players are in the 28-strong squad in Spain but Ireland are still clearly missing Megan Frazer (below), who is still recovering from a bad injury and has been unable to play for 16 months.
However, Ireland's loss has been Ulster Elks' gain as Frazer has been coaching the club while she undergoes rehab after suffering cruciate ligament damage.
The Jordanstown side have been putting together some good results recently after a slow start to their Ulster Premier League campaign but they face a stiff test against second-placed Dungannon on Friday night.
Elks captain Emma Quinn said: "Megan has been great about the club, sharing her knowledge and understanding with the players and helping them improve their skills."
Ballymoney, who are ahead of Dungannon on goal difference at the top, are also in action on Friday night when they face Randalstown at Antrim Forum.
On Saturday, champions Lurgan face an improving Banbridge side, who have pulled well clear of the drop zone in recent weeks.
Queen's, who have three games in hand on their main rivals, will be out to make it eight straight wins when they face struggling Rainey in Magherafelt.
There is a crucial game at Comber where the bottom two, North Down and Portadown, meet head-on.
Ports coach Bruce McCandless is hoping his players can replicate the form they showed in a 2-0 defeat against Queen's last Saturday.
He said: "The season so far has been a huge learning block for a young side and we knew going into the season it would be tough.
"With players leaving and a lightened squad, it's only made it harder although the girls are very much up for the challenge to stay up.
"We can take great pride from our performance against Queen's and if we can produce a similar display against North Down, it should be a good game."