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World Cup heroes reach highest ever ranking spot

 

By John Flack

The Ireland women's hockey team have received another huge boost following their World Cup heroics as they have shot up to a highest-ever eighth in the global ranking list.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Hockey Ireland is to benefit from a 'significant share' of a £1.34 million cash injection from the Republic's government into Irish Olympic sports.

Ireland were 16th on the ladder going into the World Cup, their previous best being 14th, and they have now joined the national men's team in the world's top 10 for a remarkable first.

Ireland's new lofty ranking will have positive implications in their bid to reach the Olympic finals for the first time.

If they come through the first phase of the qualifying process, it's almost certain they will have home advantage in the two-legged final eliminator for a place in Tokyo 2020.

Graham Shaw's girls went into the London showpiece with just one team, Italy, lower on the world ladder but, by finishing runners-up, Ireland have moved up eight places in the standings.

In doing so, they have overtaken seven nations who travelled to England with a higher ranking - India, Korea, China, USA, Belgium, Japan and South Africa.

Ireland had modest aspirations going into the World Cup but performed magnificently to surpass all expectations by reaching the final, only to be beaten 6-0 by the Netherlands, who remain the World No 1.

Along the way, Ireland defeated higher-ranked USA, India (twice) and Spain; the knock-out games against the two latter teams being decided by exhilarating penalty shoot-outs, during which keeper Ayeisha McFerran, one of six from Ulster in London, stole the show.

Shaw was naturally upbeat at news of Ireland's best-ever world ranking and he wants to build on this unprecedented achievement.

"There will be expectations now, but with expectation comes opportunity," he said.

"We've got to grab this because we want to go to Tokyo.

"That's our next aim. We set out two years ago to qualify for the World Cup and we did that.

"We represented ourselves well and we came second.

"Now we must build on that and, come October, we start to build towards qualifying for Tokyo.

"When we qualify for Tokyo, we'll set our sights on a medal."

Meanwhile, Ireland's over-50 women struck gold at the World Masters Cup in Barcelona to cap a glorious weekend.

Six Ulster women - including Knock's Julie Doak, who was the tournament's third highest scorer with six - were in the Ireland side, coached by Ards' Phil Mills, that beat Australia 1-0 in the final, with Loreto's Pauline Jenkinson hitting the winning goal.

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