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I prayed throughout the entire shoot-out, reveals hero Bethany

 

What a feeling: Bethany Barr celebrates qualification
What a feeling: Bethany Barr celebrates qualification

By John Flack

Bathany Barr has delivered a fascinating insight into her emotions as she stepped up to convert the crucial penalty that ultimately sealed Ireland's place in the Olympic Games for the first time following the 4-3 shoot-out win over Canada in Dublin.

The Belfast Harlequins player, one of seven Ulster women in the squad, displayed nerves of steel as she calmly sent the ball through keeper Kaitlyn Williams' legs knowing had she missed, the Tokyo dream would have ended.

Ireland trailed 3-1 in the shoot-out at the time, with Chloe Watkins going on to join Roisin Upton on the scoresheet, while Larne's Ayeisha McFerran kept out the next three Canadian efforts.

Preparation, prayer and, ultimately, precision were the corner stones of Bethany's success in the face of pressure that others might have found unbearable.

After all, there were 6,137 people witnessing the drama unfold at Prestigia Park in Donnybrook and a television audience of more than half-a-million watching on.

And if that wasn't enough, Barr was about to take her first-ever penalty run-in at senior international level.

"I knew going into the game that I was one of the potential penalty-takers and shoot-outs were something we had practised a lot because we wanted to be prepared for every situation and I'm so thankful now that we did that," explained the 24-year-old.

"I knew it was such a momentous occasion but I really tried to block out everything that was going on and just focus on the task at hand.

"Before the game we had been working on mindfulness and the mental side of our game and I know that is something that helped me a lot as I stepped up to take it.

"In all honesty, I didn't stop praying throughout the whole shoot-out and as I stepped up to take mine I knew people behind me were also praying for me.

"So, while I was still very nervous, I had a peace about taking it even though at this point I knew a miss would have meant we would lose the game."

Mind you, Bethany's mum wasn't so confident that she would score as she watched nervously from the stand before her daughter 'nutmegged' the keeper.

"I had an idea of what I wanted to do and I knew from watching video the Canadian goalie was aggressive and agile," Bethany said.

"I knew I had to move her and then get the ball under her before she dived or go all the way around her. But from watching the penalties before mine, I knew I didn't want to narrow my angles so I wanted to get it under her quickly.

"Thankfully, it went to plan but afterwards my poor mum told me she was worrying because, when I went up to take the penalty, I went the other way than I usually do so I think she began to panic!"

RESULTS

Women's Ulster Premier: Ards 7 (Z Malseed 3, F Brown 2, B Kirk, A Carson) Mossley 0

Men's Premier: Ballynahinch 0 Instonians 6 (S Pinion 2, C Kirk, S McNeice, J Palmer, S Kelso)

Kirk Cup: South Antrim 3 (C Henry, M Taylor, B Clarke) Annadale 2 (D Tremlett, A McAllister).

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