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Super Irish on road to Rio

South Africa 1-4 Ireland

By John Flack

Ireland made a sensational start to their Olympic qualifying campaign as a superb hat-trick from Nikki Evans and a wonder goal from Nicci Daly earned a terrific 4-1 win over South Africa in the opening game of the World League 3 tournament in Valencia.

Apart from a spell in the second quarter when they had difficulty keeping possession, this was a magnificent display by Darren Smith's team who today face Germany, runaway 8-0 winners over Uruguay yesterday.

Traditionally Irish teams have struggled to make the most of their chances but they took four out of the five that came their way, defended superbly when needed and fully deserved their win over a side ranked three places higher in the world.

Now Ireland are virtually assured of a place in the quarter-finals, assuming they don't slip up against Uruguay tomorrow, and the four winners will qualify for Rio 2016.

Team captain Megan Frazer said: "It was fantastic - what we aimed to do in our team talk, we executed exactly on the pitch and it showed in the second half.

"We had good control and were able to put it on the scoresheet."

Evans got her first after only five minutes when she drew the ball wide before shooting home after good approach play by Shirley McCay and Cliodhna Sargent.

Kelly Madsen levelled four minutes later when she scored with a deflection at the top of the circle but Evans restored Ireland's lead in the 18th minute from their first penalty corner of the game.

After McCay had a set-piece disallowed, UCD striker Evans completed her treble in the 50th minute, diving to sweep Sargent's pass in at the near post.

But the best was yet to come as Daly displayed some wonderful 3D skills, lifting the ball over two defenders before crashing home on the volley for an early candidate for goal of the tournament.

Pool A (today): Great Britain v Argentina (4pm UK time); Spain v Canada (6pm).

Pool B (today): USA v Uruguay (12noon); Germany v Ireland (2pm).

Belfast Telegraph


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