Evans hat-trick hero for Ireland
A Nikki Evans hat-trick helped Ireland to a dream start at the World Women's Hockey League event in Valencia yesterday with a 4-1 win against South Africa.
The tonic result against a side three ahead of them in the world rankings keeps the winners very much on track for Olympic qualification.
Evans opened her account in the fifth minute thanks to a Chloe Watkins cross but the African champions levelled before the close of the first quarter through Kelly Madsen.
A foul on Evans earned Ireland their first penalty corner of the match and the UCD striker deflected in number two with aplomb to give the side the lead which they never relinquished.
They were given a pummelling in the run up to half time but Cliodhna Sargent marshalled the defence cannily to preserve the advantage.
The Green Machine signed off with a couple of superb goals, Evans completing her three-timer with a diving connection on a Watkins cross before Nicci Daly volleyed in the fourth.
Darren Smith's team faces a tougher test today as they play Germany (2.00pm), who gave Uruguay an 8-0 spanking yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Irish squad for the male World League in Antwerp was announced yesterday along expected lines, though there was no place for the experienced Timmy Cockram and Stuart Loughrey.