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Irish stage comeback to square Spanish series

By John Flack

Ireland's women staged a stunning comeback to defeat Spain 3-2 in the Costa del Sol resort of Benalmadena yesterday and square the four-match series.

Graham Shaw's team were 2-0 down at half-time but two second half goals from Anna O'Flanagan, including a late winner, and one from Ulster's Katie Mullan sealed a superb win.

Both teams were using the series as build-up towards this summer's World Cup and the Irish head coach was delighted with the progress made.

Shaw said: "To be honest, it was one of the best camps we have had for some time and we learned a lot about individuals and the group as a whole.

"In the final game, Spain pressed us very high and forced us into mistakes early on but we played ourselves back into the game and actually could have scored more goals."

The hosts who, at 11th in the world, are ranked five places higher than Ireland, led 2-0 at half-time after goals from ­Carmen Cano and Lola Reiro, who scored from the penalty spot.

But Ireland responded when, after Gillian Pinder had twice hit the woodwork, O'Flanagan pulled a goal back after being set up by Deirdre Duke.

Team captain Mullan equalised in the 47th minute when she scored low into the net with a backhand shot.

With three minutes left, O'Flanagan grabbed the winner when she deflected a slap from Ireland's most-capped player Shirley McCay into the net following a penalty corner.

Meanwhile, at domestic level, Ballymoney are three points clear at the top of the Ulster Premier table following a 3-0 away win over Randalstown.

Champions Lurgan were 4-1 winners over Banbridge, Queen's dropped their first points after being held scoreless by Rainey, and North Down pulled four points clear at the bottom after beating basement side Portadown 3-0.

Internationals: Saturday: Spain 3 Ireland 1 (A Naughton); Yesterday: Spain 2 Ireland 3 (A O'Flanagan 2, K Mullan).

Ulster Premier: Lurgan 4 (J-A Wilson, C Stewart 2, S McClure) Banbridge 1 (P Haugh); North Down 3 (R Lucas 2, A Kimber) Portadown 0; Rainey 0 Queen's 0; Randalstown 0 Ballymoney 3 (S Gardner, J Hamilton, N Parke)

Senior One: Ballyclare 1 (J Jones) Ballymena 1 (R Reynolds); Lisnagarvey 3 (R Houston, A Jebb, J Flynn) Victorians 0; Priorians 5 (J Kennedy 3, E allen 2) Armagh 0; Raphoe 1 (E Harpur) Omagh 2 (A Buchanan, R Shortt)

Tonight: Ulster Premier: Dungannon v Queen's (8pm); Portadown v Ulster Elks (8.15pm)

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