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Irish women move step closer to Rio
21 Mar 2015 17:05
Ireland’s women put in a breathtaking first half performance to seal progression to the final phase of the Olympic Hockey qualifying process as they beat Belarus 7-0 at the UDG Healthcare World League Round 2 in Belfield.
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The win ensures a final berth and, more importantly, sees Ireland finish in the top two of the competition which brings with it a ticket to World League Round 3 in June where the Olympic tickets are decided.
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This was anticipated to be a close encounter, the last meeting a 3-2 win for Ireland in the 2013 European championships while Belarus beat Ireland in their previous meeting.
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But this was scarcely a contest as Ireland produced the performance of the campaign when the stakes were highest.
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It took just 77 seconds to break the deadlock as Anna O’Flanagan forged a route down the left wing, unlocking the door for Katie Mullan to square for Nikki Evans to tip in.
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O’Flanagan extended the lead in the sixth minute when she initially miscontrolled a right wing cross but had the wherewithal to recover the ball. She duly danced in and out of a series of tackles before slipping home past Maryna Navitskaya.
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Ireland were producing some beautiful, free-flowing stuff and created two or three open goals that went unconverted. On another day, this might have mattered more but the goals continued to flow.
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Naomi Carroll’s shot was blocked on the line by a body allowing Megan Frazer to convert her third penalty stroke of the tie for 3-0 just 13 minutes in.
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Shirley McCay then created goals four and five with two delicious crosses. The former was turned in by Carroll for her fifth goal of the tournament while Emma Smyth slapped in the next first time after a lovely left wing attack.
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The second half followed the same pattern with Ireland dominating the play with some sweet interchanges. Mullan smashed home a rebound for the sixth before Evans completed the rout in the 48th minute with the pick of the bunch, a rocket off her backhand to the roof of the net.
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It means Ireland contest the final at 5pm in Belfield on Sunday and following that will find out where the next phase of the World League sends them with Valencia looking the most likely venue.
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Ireland: E Gray, C Sargent, E Smyth, N Evans, S McCay, M Frazer, N Daly, H Matthews, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, G Pinder
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Subs: N Carroll, A Connery, C Watkins, L Colvin, K Dillon, A Meeke, A McFerran
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