Mullan cheers women's side but men drop to second tier
The Irish women and men's teams return home from the EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp today with vastly different emotions as the former finished on a high with a 3-2 success against Russia.
A day earlier, the men were hammered 4-0 by Wales - ranked 14 places below them in the world - to see them drop to the second tier after a decade in the 'A' division.
For the women, Katie Mullan struck with under two minutes to go to nick the result. Ireland trailed 1-0 at half-time before swapping the lead via Nikki Evans and Sarah Hawkshaw.
Aleksandra Leonova equalised with eight minutes left but Mullan pounced on a loose ball to win it.
Ireland had also beaten Belgium 2-1 at the death on Friday, meaning a fifth place finish overall with three wins, one draw and a loss.
"It wasn't a pretty one," said Mullan, but she added it showed character which will serve Ireland well at the Olympic qualifiers in October. "Grinding it out and the team spirit we showed two days ago and today is something we have to bottle up and take with us through to October."
On the men's side, coach Alexander Cox admitted he and his coaching staff "failed" as they ended last out of eight with the loss to Wales the final straw. He added that he will look himself in the mirror in the coming days to see if he feels he is up to the challenge of leading the side to the Olympic qualifiers in nine weeks' time.
The manner of the performances suggest an ill wind running through the set-up after a decade on the rise.