Belfast Telegraph

Ireland have much work to do before Olympic qualifier

Ireland 3 - Italy 3

By John Flack

Ireland stormed back from 3-0 down to rescue a 3-3 draw with Italy in the last match of the three-test series at Jordanstown.

The result gave them a 1-0 series victory by virtue of Thursday's opening win while Saturday's game finished 1-1.

However their display was far from impressive against a side ranked two places lower in the world rankings at 16th.

It was only in the final quarter that Ireland played with any degree of intensity as they scored three times in the last 10 minutes.

Italy led 3-0 at half time after being gifted two goals by their hosts who had dominated possession without threatening to score.

A stern team talk from assistant coach Arlene Boyles resulted in an improved second half performance but, overall, the series won't have inspired much confidence ahead of the Olympic qualifier in Valencia in June.

"We had a few choice words to say and we told the girls we weren't asking them to do anything they weren't capable of doing." said Boyles.

"To be fair though some of them are at the end of a long domestic or international season and there were others who weren't selected because of the amount of hockey they have played.

"So that caused a bit of disruption, but it shouldn't be used as an excuse for (a lack of) work rate or application."

After a penalty corner opener from Macarena Ronsisvalli, slack marking allowed Valentina Braconi and Giuliana Ruggieri to add further goals before half-time.

Ireland coach Darren Smith withdrew goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran and used Shirley McCay as a kicking-back.

The gamble paid off when, with the Italians down to 10 players, Ulster girls Michelle Harvey and Chloe Brown scored from set-pieces before the latter set up Deirdre Duke for the equaliser with two minutes left.

Results: internationals: Sunday: Ireland 3 (M. Harvey, C. Brown, D. Duke) Italy 3; Saturday: Ireland 1 (A. Connery) Italy 1; Plate finals: Qualifying: Raphoe 2 Randalstown II 1; Intermediate: Bangor 0 Larne II 1; Minor: Malone 1 Banbridge IV 0.

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