Wednesday 26 June 2019

Anna's fab four push Ireland closer to spot in semi-final

Ireland 8 Czech Republic 1

Ireland’s Anna O’Flanagan in action against Adéla Kozísková of Czech Republic during the FIH World Hockey Series clash in Banbridge yesterday. Photo: Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ireland’s Anna O’Flanagan in action against Adéla Kozísková of Czech Republic during the FIH World Hockey Series clash in Banbridge yesterday. Photo: Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile

Stephen Findlater

The Green Army marched into pole position at the women's FIH Series Finals as Anna O'Flanagan's glorious four-goal contribution saw the Czech Republic dismissed in devastating style at Banbridge.

It backed up Saturday's stodgy 2-1 success against Malaysia amid a deluge and leaves Ireland top of their group, needing just a draw against struggling Singapore to finish top of the group.

That would secure straight passage through to next Saturday's semi-final, skipping Thursday's quarters.

In 2017, the Czech Republic caused Ireland huge problems, threatening their place at the top table. This time around, it was no contest.

"Our base-level performance now is so much higher," said O'Flanagan. "We do have the odd bad day but now, if we have a bad day - like Saturday - we can still grind out a result.

"It shows how far we have grown and what we can bring to these tournaments."

Emma Buckley of Ireland in action against Katerina Lacina of Czech Republic. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Emma Buckley of Ireland in action against Katerina Lacina of Czech Republic. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Nicci Daly had already broken the deadlock in the fourth minute when O'Flanagan got her first of the day, a lovely finish from Chloe Watkins' slip pass.

Watkins and Lizzie Colvin were playing a crucial role, offering the Czechs false space in midfield which they would collapse upon, with sticks sniping for the ball.

Those turnovers offered excellent counter opportunities and while a few more should have been converted in the first half, the second half brought the goal-rush that had been threatened.

O'Flanagan's ingenuity forged the third goal, twice shaping to shoot before her marker cleared off, allowing her to slip in a low shot.

Ireland interim head coach Gareth Grundie. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ireland interim head coach Gareth Grundie. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Zoe Wilson - following Shirley McCay's quick-thinking - joined the attack to score a fourth. O'Flanagan - completing her hat-trick - and Sarah Hawkshaw extended the lead to six from smart penalty corner moves.

O'Flanagan, Ireland's all-time top scorer, got four for her country for the second time with nine minutes to go with a piledriver from the top of the D.

Jindriska Reichlova got a consolation for the Czechs but Daly completed the rout soon after.

"Saturday was our first competitive match for 10 or 11 months," O'Flanagan added. "There was probably some nerves there in front of a home crowd and they were pretty awful conditions (on Saturday). The Malaysians made things difficult but we dug deep and got the result.

"We upped the tempo (yesterday), moved the ball faster and just looked more comfortable. That was the starting point; to get four goals is amazing even if I don't really remember some of them!"

Elsewhere, Glenanne have a battle to avoid the wooden spoon from the men's EuroHockey Club Trophy in Switzerland after losses to hosts Rotweiss Wettingen (3-1) and Portugal's Casa Pia (3-2).

They will face Bohemians of Prague at 7.30am (Irish time) to avoid that ignominy and give Ireland a chance of preserving its Euro Hockey League place.

Ireland - A McFerran, R Upton, K Mullan, L Tice, G Pinder, B Barr, L Colvin, A O'Flanagan, Z Wilson, D Duke, A Meeke. Subs: S McCay, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, S Hawkshaw, E Buckley.

Irish Independent

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