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Gallant Irish excel on return to indoor arena

On target: Irish scorer Orla Fox
On target: Irish scorer Orla Fox

By John Flack

The Ireland women's indoor team exceeded even their own expectations when they held South Africa to a 2-1 winning scoreline in the first match of the six test series in Durban last night.

Ireland were playing their first game in the six-a-side version of the sport for 29 years while their host are ranked 16th in the world.

The games are being used as part of the preparation for next month's European Championship in Slovakia when Ireland won't be up against such illustrious opposition in the third-tier event where they must start on their return to the international arena.

Six Ulster players are in the squad but star player Chloe Brown didn't play yesterday as she was unable to get time off work to travel with the rest of the squad but she will be available for the rest of the series.

Ireland coach Dave Passmore said: "If you had offered me 2-1 before the game, I'd have bitten your arm off for it."

"South Africa played 22 games in the last year, winning 16 of them whereas we have had just four training sessions and only arrived in Durban the day before the first game.

"The girls performed really well in what was their first match together and, although we took some time to get into the game, we improved as it went on.

"If there was one negative it was the number of turnovers we gave up but we'll learn from it going forward."

Robyn Johnson gave South Africa the lead in the 19th minute and Amy Greaves made it 2-0 four minutes later,

UCD's Orla Fox pulled one back from a penalty corner with five minutes left but the Irish were unable to find an equaliser.

Ireland: Millie Regan; Niamh Small, Caroline Adams, Kate McKenna, Orla Fox (capt.), Orla Patton; subs: Sophie Barnwell, Erin Getty, Jessica McMaster, Tori Hastings, Naomi Carroll, Roisin O'Brien.

Today: South Africa v Ireland (4pm).

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