All to play for as Ireland’s hockey team as opening Olympic qualifier ends in stalemate

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All to play for as Ireland's hockey team as opening Olympic qualifier ends in stalemate





Disappointment was the order of the day for Ireland as their opening game of their Olympic qualifiers against Canada ended scoreless at Energia Park tonight.

The weather certainly played its part as the torrential rain made it difficult for both sides, but having dominated for long periods Ireland will be disappointed not to have taken a lead into the second game on Sunday, hit-off at 7.10pm.

It’s not all to play for in this encounter as it becomes a winner takes all game and they will be hoping that the 6,086 strong crowd will turn up again to cheer them on.

Chances were limited in the first quarter, with both sides guilty of some scrappy play and giving the ball away easily, no doubt the torrential rain not helping the situation.

Ireland’s first chance came five minutes in when Gillian Pinder played a great ball to Kathryn Mullan, but her effort went narrowly wide.

Three minutes later and Canada’s first real attack saw Brienne Stairs bare down on goal but her effort was easily thwarted by the Irish defence.

Daly and Hannah Matthews went close again for Ireland, but they never really tested the Canadian keeper in the first quarter.

Canada’s only real chance fell to Nikki Woodcroft, but that was well wide to see the sides level at the end of the first quarter.

Ireland were much the better side in the second quarter, forcing four penalty corners, with Kaitlyn Williams having to make two good saves to deny Ireland going ahead.

The first came from a drag flick by Catholic Institute’s Roisin Upton, with Ireland’s second effort ending in a goal-mouth scramble and a free out.

It was all Ireland in this quarter, with Canada hardly getting out of their own half.

Ireland’s third effort from a corner saw Williams save well from Zoe Wilson and just before half-time the same player saw her effort go narrowly wide, to see it still scoreless at half-time.

Chances were few and far between in the third quarter, but Canada did start to create more up front, something they hadn’t really done in the first half.

Their first chance, created by Stairs, was easily dealt with by the Irish defence.

But the Irish keeper, Ayeisha McFerran, was called into action for the first time 12 minutes into the third quarter. Stairs and Kate Wright combined and when the ball broke to Stephanie Norlander, McFerran had to clear, her first touch of the ball in play as it remained scoreless at the end of this quarter.

The worrying factor at this stage was the state of the pitch as the torrential rain was seeing patches of water remain and making it difficult to play any sort of decent hockey.

Canada had much more of the play in the final quarter and it took a great clearance from Matthews to prevent them from going ahead, after Wright and Rachel Donohoe had combined in the circle.

All to play for as Ireland's hockey team as opening Olympic qualifier ends in stalemate

With just over four minutes to go Canada got their first penalty corner and McFerran saved brilliantly from Donohoe to keep it scoreless.

Neither side created any more chances as it now all goes down to tomorrow night, where hopefully Ireland will have a little more luck in front of goal.

IRELAND: A McFerran; R Upton, K Mullan, S McCay, E Tice, B Barr, C Watkins, L Colvin, N Daly, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson. Rolling subs: S Barr, N Evans, G Pinder, H Matthews, E Murphy, S Hawkshaw, D Duke.

CANADA: K Williams; K Wright, D Hennig, R Donohoe, K Johansen, N Sourisseau, S McManus, A Woodcroft, B Stairs, S Johnston, S Norlander. Rolling subs: A Lee, E Wong, H Haughn, N Woodcroft, M Secco, R Harris, K Leah

Umpires: Michelle Meister, Ivona Makar.

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