Ireland Women’s hockey team gained a hugely valuable 1-0 win over World League 2 hosts Spain in Valencia today to set up a winner-takes-all encounter with Italy tomorrow.
Audrey O’Flynn struck the only goal as a much improved Ireland put in an excellent professional performance to get their World League 3 qualification hopes back on track following Tuesday’s loss to Belarus.
The rain of the previous few days in Valencia disappeared and the sun was back out as Ireland started the game brightly against a team they had already faced three times in the last three weeks at a training camp in the same venue in preparation for the tournament.
"Our possession rate was significantly better both from the back and in the attacking end" - Darren Smith
Ireland had lost those first two training camp encounters but the final game resulted in a 1-0 win and it was that scoreline that saw Ireland overcome Spain again on this occasion with Hermes’ O’Flynn grabbing the crucial goal via a penalty stroke late on in an evenly contested first half.
It was no more than the Green Army deserved as they fought for every ball and created good scoring opportunities, having effective possession throughout.
Ireland defended well against the couple of penalty corners Spain acquired in the first half and took the 1-0 lead into the break.
In truth, had Ireland managed to convert their chances and earn more penalty corners the game could have been made safe earlier but as it went, the team had to defend resolutely to hold on to their early lead.
Irish captain Alex Speers lead by example as usual while keeper Emma Gray showed her class yet again to deny Spain any chance to bring the game level.
It was nail biting stuff towards the end but the resilient overall performance deservedly saw them run out 1-0 winners.
Irish Women’s Coach Darren Smith said: "Our possession rate was significantly better both from the back and in the attacking end.
"In the second half, although Spain had opportunities, our composure and ability to suck up pressure was impressive. On a day when we needed a result, it was hugely satisfying to get one.”
The result leaves Ireland’s qualification fate for World League 3 in their own hands.
A win against Italy who Ireland face tomorrow at 10am Irish time in their final game, would guarantee the Green Army’s progress.
Ireland: E Gray, N Gray, Sargent, O’Flynn, McCarthy, Smyth, Symmons, Daly, Evans, Connery, Jacob
World League 2 Results & Fixtures – Valencia, Spain
25/02/2012 Ireland 4-1 Czech Republic
26/02/2012 Ireland 0-2 Belarus
02/03/2012 Ireland 1-0 Spain
03/03/2012 Ireland v Italy (11:00am local)