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Ireland have proved World Cup was no fluke with European Championship display, says Mullan

 

Looking up: Katie Mullan wants to finish on a high note
Looking up: Katie Mullan wants to finish on a high note

By John Flack in Antwerp

Ireland captain Katie Mullan insists her team have already made a statement at the European Championship and they are determined to finish on a high despite the disappointment of missing out on the semi-finals in Antwerp.

An agonising 1-1 draw with Germany sealed Ireland's fate as they are now in the relegation group and face a battle for survival in the top-flight for the next Euros in two years' time.

Today, Mullan's team face Belgium before meeting Russia on Sunday in the games which will determine where they finish.

However, the 25-year-old Coleraine woman says Ireland won't settle for merely staying up among the elite and, instead, they want to emulate what they have done only twice before by finishing fifth.

Mullan was a student at Dalriada in Ballymoney when the national team last achieved the feat back in 2009 after doing likewise in Dublin four years earlier.

Ireland, of course, defied the odds and sent shockwaves through the sport last August when they won the hearts of the nation by lifting the silver medals at the World Cup.

Mullan was close to tears in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday's heartbreaking draw with the Germans but proud of her team at the same time as they went so close to beating the World No.5 nation and reaching the semis for the first time.

She said: "We had a game plan and we stuck to it. We really took the match to them and, with better finishing, we could have won it.

"I was so gutted for the girls but proud of them for their efforts. Sometimes in sport, the team that is more clinical wins, and that's what happened.

"However, I think we have already proved that the World Cup was no fluke by holding one of the best teams around to a draw and, on another day, we could have beaten them.

"I think the world of hockey is now taking the Irish team a lot more seriously than they might have done in the past and we have proved to ourselves and to those on the outside looking in that on our day we can match anyone."

Today's game with Belgium is likely to be much tougher than Sunday's clash with Russia in Pool C of the tournament as Ireland bid to emulate their previous best finish at the Euros.

The Belgians were tipped to beat Spain in their final pool game on Wednesday but instead went down 1-0.

Ireland played them in a two-match series just a fortnight ago and lost the first game 4-2 before they drew the next 2-2.

Mullan added: "We have played them quite a lot in recent years and we both know each other's style quite well.

"Russia are a bit of a less known quantity but they only lost 1-0 to Spain in their pool, so can't be underestimated."

Today: Pool C: Russia v Belarus (12.30pm), Ireland v Belgium (2.45pm). Semi-finals: England v Netherlands (5pm), Spain v Germany (7.30pm).

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