Ireland 1 England 5
Ireland’s dream of booking an automatic ticket to next year’s World Cup is in tatters following a hugely disappointing 5-1 defeat to England at the European Championship in Amsterdam yesterday.
Ireland now need a huge win over Italy in today’s final match and then hope that Scotland — who are, at 22nd, the lowest-ranked side in the tournament — can post a rare win over England.
Both are extremely unlikely scenarios, with Ireland having scored just three times in four matches to date while Scotland are still smarting from a 10-0 drubbing by their Netherlands hosts earlier in the week.
So it seems certain that in order to reach the World Cup, Ireland will now have to contest an eight-team qualifier in October needing to win it to earn the coveted last ticket.
Yet, for 15 minutes yesterday, it looked possible that Ireland could get the victory they craved, having lost all previous European Championship meetings with England.
They started on the front foot and took an early lead with a wonderfully constructed goal scored by Deirdre Duke and proceeded to dominate the opening exchanges.
But that was as good as it got for the Irish, who failed to get a shot on target for the rest of the game as England turned the tables to lead 3-1 at the long break, adding two more for good measure.
Katie Mullan was bitterly disappointed at the final whistle as her team failed to build on that superb start.
The Ireland captain said: “We are absolutely gutted.
“We fought hard today and we were the better team in the first quarter.
“But we knew England would come at us after that. We know that they are a very fast and physical team.
“We knew we would have to try and move the ball quicker than them like we did in the first quarter but we didn’t do that in the rest of the game.”
It was a bittersweet occasion for two other Ulster players as Lizzie Holden earned her 200th cap and Ards striker Zara Malseed won her first, having been promoted from the reserve list for the injured Chloe Watkins.
Holden put a brave face on things, saying: “We started really well, building really good possession and going for it, but the wheels came off in the second quarter and they gathered momentum.
“That was the difference and there are just such fine margins in these Europeans.
“It spiralled out of control but we still put in a really good shift and I am proud of the girls’ work rate.”
The opening goal of the game came in the 13th minute as Anna O’Flanagan played a swift one-two with Nicci Daly and crashed the ball into the circle for Duke to connect and send it high into the net.
But England came out of the blocks quicker in the second quarter, scoring three times in an impressive nine-minute purple patch, through Anna Toman’s penalty corner and two close-range efforts from the
accurate Sarah Evans.
Giselle Ansley’s corner shot in the 42nd minute was deflected home off Shirley McCay’s stick for England’s fourth and Jo Hunter wrapped things up with 70 seconds left to put some gloss on the scoreline.
Ireland: A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan; subs: Z Malseed, M Carey, M Frazer, N Daly, H Matthews, D Duke, L Murphy.
Today: Pool C: Ireland v Italy (3.30pm); England v Scotland (6.15pm); Tomorrow: 3rd place play- off: (9.30am); final: (12noon).