Hockey: Small comfort for Irish
IRELAND 1 ENGLAND 3
IRELAND'S women hockey players tumbled to their third successive defeat at the European Championships in Monchengladbach when they were soundly beaten by England yesterday.
Already doomed to the relegation zone, they entered this match looking only to restore bruised morale.
And when Niamh Small pulled Emma Smyth's cross from the left into Madeleine Hinch's net, there was at least some spring in the Irish step.
However, they played the second half almost entirely in reverse gear as the English set about preserving their 100pc record.
The lead lasted until the 39th minute when Hannah MacLeod went loitering with intent in the Irish goalmouth to turn in Crista Cullen's drive. Three minutes later, a trail of bamboozled Irish defenders failed to put a stop to Helen Richardson's incisive dribble.
Then, on 53 minutes, Anne Panter made scoring look easy as she diverted Kate Walsh's delivery past goalkeeper Pamela Smithwick at a well rehearsed penalty corner.
Afterwards, coach Gene Muller played up the positives in the Irish performance as they prepare to meet Azerbaijan and Italy to stave off the very real threat of relegation from Europe's elite.
But, while his side managed their first goal of the tournament, they continued to struggle in attack and could not manage a shot throughout an embattled second half.
Ireland -- P Smithwick, C Sargent, E Clarke, A Speers, S McCay, L Jacob, N Small, S McCarthy, N Symmons, A O'Flynn, E Colvin. Subs: M Harvey, M Crowley, E Smyth, J O'Halloran, C Watkins.
England -- M Hinch, L Unsworth, C Cullen, H Richardson, N Seymour, K Walsh, C Rogers, A Danson, G Twigg, S Walton, S Townsend. Subs: H MacLeod, A Panter, K Williams, R Herbert, A Ball.