By Rory Noonan
Disappointment last night for the Irish women’s hockey team as their first game of two against Canada in their Olympic qualifier ended scoreless.
But head coach, Sean Dancer, has already had to turn his attention to their second and now, winner takes all, encounter at 7pm this evening, again at Energia Park.
Conditions were poor last night, making it difficult to play any sort of decent hockey and by the end of the game the pitch has water lodging in patches, with the ball sticking.
Dancer was disappointed with the result, especially as they had dominated possession wise.
Afterwards he said: “It would certainly have been nice to get the win from the first game but unfortunately we didn’t get there but as we knew, it was always going to be a tough game and both teams were fighting hard.
“We had a good few opportunities in the first half and had the better of it. But Canada had the best of the second so it ended even overall.
“I’ve been really happy with the girls. They’ve been working hard over the last period and my main message was to try and enjoy the game and play the way they want to play.
“We always knew it would be half-time now. Either way, if we had won or lost, we would still be in the game. With some of the other results elsewhere, like the USA winning 4-0 at one stage (having lost 5-1 the day before), you can have big turnarounds.
“The girls are used to things like that. The heavy rain was obviously going to slow the field down; nothing anyone could do about that. You do have to put in a different type of game plan. The way the turned out, we couldn’t quite get control in the second half.
“Canada were pressing really well and we were looking for other options. It wasn’t pretty but we will go back and review it and see what we can do.
“In the end, you have to trust the structures you put in place, move the ball well and then get the rewards when you do get to the circle when attacking the 25 and the circle like shots at goal and penalty corners.”
Just over 6,000 were at the game (6,086), a record crowd for an event like this and Dancer was delighted with the support.
“It was certainly a very good atmosphere; the Irish support was excellent toward the end of the game when we saved that penalty corner and you could hear that big roar. Things like that are what really spur players on.”
On Shirley McCay, who won her 300th cap last night he said: “Very special for her; she deserves every cap she has got and is certainly a key part of our team.”
Ireland’s attention now turns to tonight’s tie, where the pressure is on them to come out on top and qualify for the Olympics and stop Canada making it a double over Ireland.