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Ireland hero Ayeisha puts professional dream on hold as she's named World Cup's top stopper

 

By John Flack

Ayeisha McFerran was named goalkeeper of the tournament after her World Cup heroics in London where Ireland lost 6-0 to reigning champions the Netherlands in yesterday's final.

The 22-year-old Larne woman could now consider offers to turn professional after helping Ireland claim a world silver medal position against all odds.

McFerran could do little to stop any of goals as the rampant Dutch, who had scored 26 goals in three pool matches, produced a masterclass.

During the two week showpiece, she has had several offers to play abroad professionally.

Up to the final she had only conceded three goals in five games and also helped Ireland win penalty shoot-outs against India and Spain. But the invites will remain on hold as she completes a US university scholarship.

Ayeisha is entering the final year of a hockey scholarship at the University of Louisville.

But she says she would dearly love to take up one of the offers when she finishes her studies.

She said: "Yes, I would really enjoy the challenge at some stage in the future. You never know what might happen over a course of a year but, all things being equal, yes, I'd love to give it a go.

"A few people were in touch during the course of the tournament which is very flattering but, for now, I am concentrating on my final year at uni."

McFerran modestly attributed her individual World Cup accolade to her team mates and the Ireland back room staff.

She added: "The award is not for me - I don't go out looking for accolades. I go out to play for my team and this is for (back-up goalie) Grace O'Flanagan, our goalkeeping coach Nigel Henderson and the rest of the squad, not me."

McFerran says she enjoyed the challenge of facing the world's best team, despite the scoreline as Ireland prepare to go home with a set of silver medals.

They went into the tournament ranked 15th and exceeded all expectations - even their own - by reaching the final and achieving a much higher world ranking as a reward.

McFerran added: "The Dutch are a very classy outfit and it was a very tough game for us but the girls fought the whole way and we've got silver medals around our necks so we can't complain.

"They are very efficient in the circle and their players have real power in their shots. That's the level we must aspire to be but we will get there.

"We knew it was going to be very difficult - we've never been in this environment before.

"And, for the first time in the tournament, we've had to play matches on successive days but we have put in performances both individually and as a team."

Ireland captain Katie Mullan, one of six Ulster players in the squad, says she was proud of her entire squad's efforts.

There was obvious disappointment at the final hooter but Irish eyes were soon smiling again when the players went up to receive their medals.

The Coleraine woman said: "It's a tough one when you look at the scoreboard and you see you've conceded six goals.

"We believed that we could rattle the Dutch. But it's hard when you're competing against full-time professionals.

"But no excuses, they are an incredible outfit and a really impressive team. But you don't want to look back in six months time.

"You want to enjoy the moment when you get handed a silver medal and we are proud of what we have achieved.

"The girls went up and got their medals with big smiles on their faces and that's just so lovely to see.

"Hopefully, we'll jump up the world rankings and get into the top 10 at the very least. These girls will want more now that they've got a taste for it.

"I have no doubt we can and will get even better and rally together and get back after a well-deserved break and set new goals.

"We have never played in a World Cup and now we have. We have never played in an Olympic Games before and now that's the next goal.

"It's been incredible the support, people travelling over and the support we've had from other nations wanting us to do well.

"We really appreciate that; it makes you realise that you're proud to be a part of it. Hopefully young girls will now say I want to play hockey, I want to be part of a team."

Belfast Harlequins midfielder Lizzie Colvin was also delighted with Ireland's achievement once its magnitude sank in.

And she believes Ireland can aspire to move on to bigger and better things in the years to come on the back of their wonderful adventure, despite yesterday's loss.

The 28-year-old said: " It was a really tough game and we were a bit disappointed that we conceded so early.

"But they've been the best team in this tournament by a country mile and I think they showed that today.

"We gave a good account of ourselves and we have no regrets but, yeah, class showed.

"Yesterday's game with Spain was our 'final' and we put a lot into that and it guaranteed us a medal.

"I am confident that this is the start of something special and when we reflect on this tournament there are so many positives to take out of it.

"We knew it was going to be a very tough task to beat the Dutch but in our eyes we are all winners. It's just amazing to come away with silver medals around our necks."

Meanwhile Irish head coach Graham Shaw was disappointed with the result but not with his players.

"Let me check that Dutch match card… did they play 13 against us?" he laughed.

"But let's be honest, the Dutch are outstanding and it was a big ask for us to cause another upset. Really it was a step too far.

"Yes, disappointed with the scoreline but altogether it was a remarkable achievement by a great bunch of girls.

"Sometimes coaches can be negative and tell their players what they didn't do, but we've created a positivity and go out with a smile on our faces and a belief in what we can do."

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