Ireland 3-1 Czech Republic
Goals from Lena Toce, Roisin Upton and Grace O’Flanagan Ireland swept past the Czech Republic in their EuroHockey Championship 5th-8th-placed play-off semi-final on Thursday.
Shirley McCay earned her 250th international cap in a slick performance, as Ireland progressed to a clash with Spain on Saturday (11.15am) for fifth spot.
Starts don’t come more ideal than the one the Green Army manufactured for themselves as Tice got herself on the scoresheet inside the opening minute with a powerful penalty corner sweep.
Ireland looked in control for large periods as they moved the ball around well but the all-important final touch in the circle was just missing.
The Czechs created some chances of their own as Klara Hanzlova found herself through on goal only to draw a good body save from Grace O’Flanagan.
In the ninth minute Ireland had the opportunity to double their lead as they were awarded a stroke from a penalty corner stop on the line but Roisin Upton’s shot pinged off the post.
Hanzlova very nearly found herself clear on goal again but Hannah Matthews poached the ball before she could shoot.
Czech Republic v Ireland - Women's Rabo EuroHockey Championships - Match Highlights pic.twitter.com/u10CvhxKgv— EuroHockey (@eurohockeyorg) August 24, 2017
The opportunities started mounting for Ireland as the half wound down and they pushed for another goal but the Czech defence sat very deep. Katie Mullan saw her reverse pass zip across the face of goal, just past the outstretched Anna O’Flanagan.
The best chance of the half fell in the dying seconds as Matthews sent the ball to O’Flanagan in the circle who duly spun her marker only to be robbed of the ball in front of goal, but Chloe Watkins sent the ball back in and O’Flanagan’s deflection was somehow saved by Barbora Cechakova.
Ireland’s momentum didn’t waiver early in the second half as Nikki Evans, Deidre Duke and Sinead Loughran all found themselves in front of goal but the ball simply wouldn’t fall for the Irish as shots spun wide or final passes were missed.
A 47th-minute goal from Hanzlova put the Irish under pressure but they responded within two minutes with a well won penalty corner that Roisin Upton sent flying against the back board to retake the lead.
Ireland put the game to bed five minutes later as Emily Beatty darted into the circle only to slip the ball to O’Flanagan who got in front of her marker to chip the ball past Cechakova.
Both Evans and Mullan saw their shots either saved or rip over the cross bar in the final minutes of the tie as Ireland looked to add to their goal difference.
Commenting after the fixture, head coach Graham Shaw said: "We're maybe a little disappointed we didn’t rack up more goals but the most important thing is the win, and now we focus on Spain.
"I’m pleased with how well we started but we’re just lacking a little bit on confidence in front of goal at the moment. We created a lot of opportunities and played some good hockey at times, overall we’re happy with the win."
Shaw also paid tribute to McCay, adding: "It’s an incredible achievement and she should be very proud.
"The dedication, commitment and loyalty she has shown over the last 10 years is a testament to the person that she is. From the management and team, we want to congratulate her, it really is an incredible achievement."
Ireland: G O’Flanagan, Y O’Byrne, K Mullan (Captain), S McCay, E Tice, G Pinder, C Watkins, N Daly, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke
Subs: C Cassin, N Evans, E Beatty, R Upton, S Loughran, H Matthews, A Meeke
Czech Republic: B Cechakova, K Lacina, A Kolarova, J Reichlova, K Poloprutska, K Hanzlova, K Dukatova, T Mejzlikova, V Novakova, A Lehovcova, B Haklova
Subs: K Jirsova, A Vancurova, V Decsyova, A Vorlova, N Babicka, B Kavanova, N Novakova