The Electric Ireland Irish Women’s team started their road to London 2012 at Beerschot in Belgium today with a win against France.
Ireland were boosted with the return of their captain, Alex Speers, and they started the stronger, creating chances, but were reduced to 10 when Shirley McCay saw green for an over-zealous challenge.
In the 13th minute France took a surprise lead from a break down the right, which was finished by Dutel.
But Ireland equalised in the 20th minute. Smyth’s quick free from outside the circle went to Speers, whose initial shot was saved. But a super second-phase shot finished up in the net.
Ireland had now found their rhythm and were creating chances, with Smyth and Evans both going close. And they took the lead on the hooter when, after good work by Crowley, a penalty corner was awarded which Audrey O Flynn dragged to the net.
Ireland’s first opportunity of the second half came after two minutes when O Flynn’s penalty corner attempt was saved.
The third goal came courtesy of Connery, who received the ball on the 23-metre line, ghosted past two defenders and finished with a sublime flick over the keeper.
Ireland were now totally dominant and, from a crash ball by Nicci Daly, Lisa Jacob got a neat touch for number four. In the 47th minute, Connery won a corner after a rampaging run down the left which Harvey dragged low under the keeper to put Ireland 5-1 ahead.
In the 49th minute, France won their first corner of the game but it was cleared by the Irish defence.
France had good spell around the hour mark but Gray, in the Ireland goal, would not be beaten a second time. Ireland also had their chances in the final quarter but could not extend their lead, and had to be happy with their four-goal margin of victory.
Ireland now play Russia on Sunday 18 March at 12.30 (Irish Time).
After the game Irish coach Gene Muller said: "It was a good start to the tournament for us. We were a little tentative at the beginning and conceded a n early goal as a result.
“After they scored we played ourselves into the match and grew in confidence we are now focussing on the Russia game and we need to perform well tomorrow."
Ireland (2) 5 (Aine Connery, Audrey O'Flynn, Michelle Harvey, Alex Speers, Lisa Jacob)
France (1) 1 (Dutel)
Starting XI: Gray (GK), Symmons, Sargent, McCarthy, O Flynn, Smyth, Colvin, McCay, Speers, Connery, Jacob.
Subs: Harvey, Clarkje, Daly, Crowley, Evans
Non Playing: Smithwick, Watkins