Sunday 16 June 2019

No fairytale ending as Dutch masters prove step too far for Ireland

Holland 6 Ireland 0

Shirley McCay stops Holland’s Xan de Waard in her tracks during the World Cup final in London. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images
Shirley McCay stops Holland’s Xan de Waard in her tracks during the World Cup final in London. Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

David Medcalf

A six-goal defeat had a silver medal lining for Ireland as they were blitzed by Holland in the World Cup final no one had expected them to contest.

Graham Shaw's side felt the full backlash ignited by Netherlands underwhelming performance in Saturday's semi-final shootout win against Australia.

The Irish were blown away by the world's top outfit, whose pace and skill tested the underdogs to the full in the heat of Lee Valley in London.

The defending champions took the title for the eighth time with a lust for goal which had goalkeeper of the tournament Ayeisha McFerran repeatedly groping at fresh air.

The Irish took to the pitch without Megan Frazer, whose comeback from knee surgery ended in Saturday's dramatic shoot-out win over Spain.

In her absence, Pembroke Wanderers speedster Emily Beatty was called up overnight from her holidays in Cork.

It took the Dutch just six minutes take the lead, Lidewij Welten bamboozling McFerran with a shot that came through a bewildering forest of sticks.

Canny tackling by Shirley McCay, Zoe Wilson and the rest kept the lid on the Netherlands juggernaut for a while and Ali Meeke popped up to deliver a couple of crosses from the right.

But the unravelling process became dizzying in the second quarter.

Kelly Jonker doubled the lead while McFerran was picking herself up after an initial shot.

Then Kitty van Male tidied up a penalty corner routine that was not quite going to plan, slapping home the loose ball.

And Malou Pheninckx promptly added the fourth shortly before half-time in spectacular style, given ample room to chop the ball savagely high into the net.

The pummelling resumed after the changeover, as Welten presented Marloes Keetels with a chance too good to miss from four metres out.

Caia van Maasakker almost parted Meeke's eyebrows with a powerful drag flick which completed a rip-roaring run of four scores in six lethal minutes of play.

The underdogs snapped at the heels of their tormentors in the final quarter with captain Katie Mullan stealing the ball in midfield to liberate Nicci Daly for a shot which rattled the pad of Josine Koning.

That was Ireland's one shot worthy of the name on a day when the world's 16th-anked side were unable to bridge the clear gulf in class, despite loud encouragement from their supporters in the 10,000 crowd.


Coach Shaw called McFerran ashore to allow sub keeper Grace O'Flanagan enjoy a little of the action and the Railway Union netminder made one sound block from Lauren Leurink as a damage limitation exercise was successfully implemented.

The losers had nothing to be ashamed of against a side that was capable of knocking in a dozen against Italy earlier in the event.

The first World Cup final for Ireland in any team sport was probably the swansong for record cap holder McCay, who put up a gritty display at the end of her 12th international season.

"The Dutch were just another class, by far the best in the world," said Chloe Watkins in bittersweet mood as she collected her silver medal.

Ireland - A McFerran, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, G Pinder, R Upton, C Watkins, E Colvin, H Matthews, A O'Flanagan, Z Wilson. Subs: Y O'Byrne, E Tice, E Beatty, N Daly, D Duke, A Meeke, G O'Flanagan.

Netherlands - A Veenendaal, L Leurink, X de Waard, CD van den Heuvel, L Welten, C van Maa-sakker, F Matla, I van den Assem, L Stam, M van Geffen, E de Goede. Subs: S Koolenj, K van Male, M Pheninckx, M Keetels, K Jonker, L Nunnink, E de Goede, J Koning.

Umpires - I Presenqui (Argentina), L Delforge (Belgium).


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