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Ireland hit for six but can hold their heads up high after wonderful World Cup run

Ireland 0 Netherlands 6

By John Flack

The Ireland women's hockey team were still smiling despite suffering a chastening 6-0 defeat by the Netherlands in yesterday's World Cup final in sun-splashed London in front of a capacity 10,500 crowd.

The initial disappointment at the final hooter quickly subsided as they proudly stood on the rostrum after receiving a set of silver medals.

It's an achievement that was beyond their wildest dreams going into the tournament as the second lowest ranked team and, ultimately, the lowest ranked nation ever to contest a World Cup final.

Ireland went into the final as rank outsiders against the seven-times champions and World No.1 nation, who hadn't lost a game since their penalty shoot-out defeat to Great Britain in the 2016 Olympic decider and had scored an incredible 26 times in their three pool games last week.

Few teams would have been able to live with the Dutch, who were a joy to watch yesterday - unless, of course, you happen to be Irish!

They led 4-0 at half-time and the fact the scoreline hadn't reached double figures by the end was testament to some superb defending and another fine goalkeeping display by Ulster's Ayeisha McFerran.

Ireland were dealt a major blow even before the start when star player Megan Frazer was ruled out due to a hamstring injury.

The 27-year-old, one of six Ulster women in the squad, who had played only a handful of games in the past two years after knee surgery, picked up the knock during Saturday's epic semi-final win over Spain.

She was clearly still in pain as she hobbled off the team bus a couple of hours before what would have been the biggest game of her life.

Frazer had been improving with every game at the World Cup and seemed to be getting close to the talismanic player she was before she suffered a bad cruciate injury when training with German club Mannheimer in October 2016.

UCD striker Emily Beatty, who had been on stand-by as one of two non-travelling reserves received a late call-up and started on the bench.

As has been the norm at this tournament, the Irish girls looked calm and relaxed as they stood for the anthem, wearing broad grins as they stood shoulder to shoulder.

However, after a bright start by the underdogs, the defending champions broke the deadlock in the seventh minute when, after a great stop by McFerran, the ball broke for Lidewij Welten, who hammered the ball past the goalkeeper-of-the-tournament in clinical style.

It was all Netherlands for the remainder of the first quarter as they forced two penalty corners, the first of which flashed wide.

Ireland were glad to go into the first break only one goal down after surviving almost incessant pressure.

But just two minutes had elapsed in the second quarter,when Kelly Jonker crashed in number two from a rebound after McFerran had made a brilliant save from the initial effort.

Ireland were still firmly on the back foot but, from a rare break, great work by Ulster girls Katie Mullan and Lizzie Colvin briefly threatened the Dutch goal.

Normal service was resumed as Netherlands forced another corner in the 23rd minute but Roisin Upton came to the rescue with a brilliant stop on the line.

However, in the 28th minute, any slim hopes Ireland had of producing another ended when Kitty van Male cracked home a rebound to make it 3-0 after the initial set-piece had been charged down.

Just over 60 seconds later, it became mission impossible when Malou Pheninckx scored an absolute belter, smashing a ferocious shot high into the net from the right.

There were just 82 seconds gone in the third quarter when the aim became damage limitation as Marloes Keetels fired home after the ball had been pulled back from the goal line by Welter.

Three minutes later it was 6-0 after a wonderful drag flick by Ciai van Maasakker ripped into the roof of the net from the champions' sixth corner of the game as Ireland had now conceded five goals in a torrid seven minute spell.

With nine minutes left goalkeeper of the tournament McFerran pulled off a wonder save from Matla's penalty corner and McCay defended the follow-up award brilliantly.

IRELAND: Ayeisha McFerran, Shirley McCay, Hannah Matthews, Zoe Wilson, Roisin Upton, Elena Tice, Yvonne O'Byrne, Lizzie Colvin, Nicola Evans, Gillian Pinder, Katie Mullan, Nicola Daly, Anna O'Flanagan, Chloe Watkins, Ali Meeke, Deirdre Duke, Emily Beattie, Grace O'Flanagan, Megan Frazer

NETHERLANDS: Anne Veenendaal, Laurien Leurienk, Xan de Waard, Carlien Dirkse van der Heuvel, Lidewij Welten, Caia van Maasakker, Frederique Matler, Ireen van den Assem, Lauren Stam, Margot van Geffen, Eva de Goede, Sanne Koolen, Kitty van Male, Malou Pheninckx, Marloes Keetels, Kelly Jonker, Laura Nunnink, Josine Koning

Umpires: Irene Presenqui, Laurine Delforge

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