McFerran proving she's one of hockey world's best, says Shaw
Ireland women's head coach Graham Shaw has described Ulster-born goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran as one of the best shot-stoppers at the World Cup ahead of tomorrow night's final Pool B match with England in London (7pm).
The Larne woman, who is undertaking a hockey scholarship at the University of Louisville, stole the show once again with a string of breathtaking saves in the sensational 1-0 win over India on Thursday.
The result earned Shaw's team an automatic berth in Thursday's World Cup quarter-final for the first time against opposition still to be determined.
McFerran was named player of the match in the opening 3-1 win over the USA and ran her fellow Ulster player Shirley McCay close for the individual accolade in the victory over India.
Now Ireland can afford to relax as they bid for a first World Cup win over England, having lost 3-1 in Perth in 2002 and 2-0 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Dublin eight years earlier.
However, McFerran can expect another busy 60 minutes as the host team will be out to secure a first win in front of a sell-out 10,400 crowd following disappointing opening draws against India and USA.
Shaw said: "We've always thought Ayeisha was an outstanding goalkeeper and I am just so pleased for her that she has now shown it on the world stage.
"She has worked very hard at her game and it's certainly paid off, and now she has got her reward with a place in the quarter-final to look forward to, although, for now, the focus is on the next match.
"It's amazing that when the draw came out we got England at a tournament they're hosting, on the back of winning gold at the Rio Olympics.
"There's certainly no pressure on us but there will be a little on them. We just need to go out and try to perform well to continue this run.
"It's a dream come true for the girls to play in front of that number of people, so we're really looking forward to this game."
McFerran, meanwhile, was ecstatic after the win over India, 368 days after being sent off in the corresponding game at the qualifying tournament in Johannesburg where a 2-1 win ultimately booked Ireland their tickets to London.
"To have made the quarter-finals in our first World Cup in 16 years with a game still to play is absolutely surreal and it's going to take a while to sink in," she said.
"I've put a lot of hard work in with the specialist coaches who work with the keepers and it seems to be paying off.
"Now we all can't wait to play England with the pressure off, and we will be looking for another win to keep the momentum going before we even think about the quarter-finals."
Meanwhile, the Irish men crashed to a 4-0 defeat against Olympic bronze medallists Germany in Dusseldorf yesterday afternoon.
After a goalless first half, the mostly inexperienced midfield left alarming gaps for the Germans to exploit, and after Mats Grambusch managed to deflect in a penalty corner, the floodgates opened.
Timm Herzbruch got the second from a counter attack, scoring on the reverse, and Niklas Wellan did the same but from the right of the circle.
Wellan got the fourth when he deflected in another shot on the reverse.
The Irish complete their programme tomorrow against France (8.30am).