'Gutted' Ireland girls will take lessons from final defeat into Europeans, vows captain
Ireland's women had to settle for the runners up spot at the FIH Hockey series at Havelock Park yesterday after falling to a disappointing 3-1 defeat against Korea in the final.
The Koreans belied their lower world ranking with a clinical display and they deserved their victory after moving into a 2-0 lead and then adding a third late on after Nicci Daly had pulled a goal back with 75 seconds left.
The scenes at the presentation were in marked contrast to those after the World Cup final in London last August when Ireland's initial frustration at losing to the Netherlands had turned to elation as they proudly stepped up to receive their silver medals.
The deflation was plain to see as the Irish girls could barely raise a smile as they stood on the rostrum after being outplayed when it came to finishing.
However, all is far from lost because, on Saturday, Ireland had guaranteed themselves the required top-two finish in the tournament to progress to the final stage of qualifying for Tokyo with a 4-0 semi-final win over the Czech Republic.
The World Cup silver medallists will now go into a two-legged play-off with a lower ranked nation, hopefully with home advantage, with the winner booking their tickets to Japan.
The line-up and host teams for the qualifiers will be determined based on the updated world rankings which will be confirmed following the five continental championships.
Ireland initially face Germany, England and Belarus at the European Championship in Antwerp in August when they will have a difficult task if they are to reach the semi-finals.
Team captain Katie Mullan couldn't hide her disappointment after the game although Ireland's dream of a first appearance at an Olympics is still alive.
The Coleraine woman said: "Unfortunately we were unable to put the cherry on the cake and we can take away a lot of lessons from the game but the initial target was to finish in the top-two and we did that.
"But we are obviously gutted not to have won the final which would have given us more world ranking points.
"We had difficulty coping with their aerial balls but we now have the Europeans and won't just be going to make up the numbers.
"The timing of that series will provide us with a valuable build-up ahead of the Olympic qualifiers in the autumn."
Belfast Harlequins' Lizzie Colvin, one of seven Ulster girls in the squad, had mixed emotions.
"It's bitter-sweet I suppose and, yes, the Olympic dream is still alive, but it's also gutting to have lost the final.
"As we proved at the World Cup, there isn't much between teams at this level."
Interim head coach Gareth Grundie was disappointed at the fact a Roisin Upton goal was ruled out for obstruction with the game scoreless.
After that disallowed score, Seona Kim broke the deadlock in the 46th minute, latching on to a quickly-taken free before beating the Irish keeper on her reverse.
Ten minutes later Eunbi Cheon doubled the lead when she cracked home on her backhand after receiving a reverse pass from Hyou An.
Daly pulled one back when she scrambled home a penalty corner but any chance of a comeback was quickly dashed. Ireland were caught out again with an overhead pass and, with McFerran withdrawn in a late but unsuccessful gamble, Jina Kang found the empty net.
On Saturday, Shirley McCay, Zoe Wilson, Sarah Hawkshaw and Anna O'Flanagan - named Player of the Tournament - got the goals in the win over the Czechs.
Saturday: 7th-8th place play-off: Ukraine 3 Singapore 0; Semi-finals: Ireland 4 (S McCay, Z Wilson, S Hawkshaw, A O'Flanagan) Czech Republic 0; Korea 3 Malaysia 0
Yesterday: 5th-6th place play-off: Scotland 6 France 0; 3rd-4th; Malaysia 3 Czech Republic 0; Final: Ireland 1 (N Daly) Korea 3.