Power of 10 as Irish reach quarters in World series
Ireland 10 Hong Kong 0
Ireland crushed Hong Kong 10-0 at the World League 2 tournament in Kuala Lumpur yesterday to top their pool and book their place in the quarter-finals against Singapore tomorrow.
The result came as no surprise as Hong Kong, ranked 37th in the world, shipped nine goals in their opening game against Malaysia and then went down on penalties against Kazakhstan, who had lost 12-0 to Ireland on Saturday.
However, Ireland - with five Ulster girls in their ranks - know that the going gets tougher after tomorrow's clash, which they should win comfortably against a nation ranked 43 in the world and 9-0 losers to Italy yesterday.
Graham Shaw's team will still need to win Saturday's semi-final against stronger opposition to secure the top-two finish they require to guarantee progress to the final stage of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals.
After a scoreless opening quarter, Munster woman Roisin Upton broke the deadlock from an 18th-minute penalty corner.
Nikki Evans made it 2-0 early in the second half and Chloe Watkins added a third from a set-piece in the 41st minute.
Captain Anna O'Flanagan scored Ireland's fourth shortly afterwards and Ulster girl Katie Mullan made it five.
O'Flanagan, Rebecca Barry, Gillian Pinder, Mullan and Nicci Daly added further goals in the remaining 15 minutes to complete the rout.
Pinder won her 100th cap while Ulster girl Ayeisha McFerran got her 50th.
Meanwhile, Chloe Brown, who was ruled out of contention for a place in the World League 2 squad due to a broken ankle, hopes to return to action this weekend when Ards defend their Ulster indoor title at Queen's.
"My rehab has been going really well and I've been working extremely hard in the gym to try and get back to where I was before the injury," said the striker.
"If everything goes well and I'm feeling fit, I hope to play at the weekend. It will be good to get back playing competitive indoor matches and this will benefit us and prepare us for our European trip to Lithuania.
"As we are in the B division there, the teams are very clinical in all aspects of their game and we need to keep lifting our performance each time we play."
Ards, who also hope to have former international Emma Reid back from maternity leave, are joined by host team Queen's, Randalstown and Belfast Harlequins in the round-robin series.
The top two finishers will qualify for the national championship to be staged at the same venue on Sunday week, with the overall winners qualifying for Europe next year.
Outdoors on Saturday, Lurgan will be expected to make it nine straight wins in the Ulster Premier League at Lisnagarvey while second-placed Ballymoney travel to basement side Raphoe.
Portadown take on North Down on Friday evening.