Thursday 18 July 2019

Pinder looks to Europeans after late Korea blows crush final hopes

Ireland 1-3 South Korea

Elena Tice consoles Zoe Wilson after final defeat to South Korea. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Elena Tice consoles Zoe Wilson after final defeat to South Korea. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Stephen Findlater

Three final-quarter strikes put paid to Ireland's hopes of first place at the FIH Series but the side can reflect on a strong week's work on the Road to Tokyo.

Goals from Hyunji Kim, Eunbi Cheon and Jina Kang in the last 15 minutes saw Korea win out 3-1 in Banbridge.

Shirley McCay in action against South Korea's Cheon Eunbi. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Shirley McCay in action against South Korea's Cheon Eunbi. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

But Saturday's 4-0 success against the Czech Republic assured Ireland of a top-two finish and a place in next October's Olympic qualifiers with a decent chance of hosting it, too.

That late salvo made for a slightly eerie feeling around Banbridge as an expectant sold-out crowd saw their side enjoy long phases in the ascendancy before falling to a series of sucker punches.

Indeed, Ireland felt they had the lead in the 21st minute only for Róisín Upton's corner flick to be disallowed for a perceived obstruction.

The Green Army bossed the third quarter but no goals came, leaving it very much in the balance. Ireland had managed the Koreans' long overheads for much of the game in what was a far tougher challenge than any other this week but they were caught cold in the last phases when Kim stole in.

The Ireland players during a quarterly break in the match. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
The Ireland players during a quarterly break in the match. Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Cheon grabbed the second with four minutes to go before Nicci Daly kept the game alive until the dying seconds.

"We had our eyes set on winning this tournament and the ranking points that come with it," midfielder Gillian Pinder surmised. "But we are still qualified for that Olympic play-off and still have pretty big fish to fry in the Europeans in August. It's not the end of the world."

Earlier, Ireland's men fell to a 2-1 defeat to world number 20 side Egypt to leave them in third place in their group at the FIH Series in Le Touquet.

John Jackson tipped in from a Shane O'Donoghue shot for a 19th-minute lead but the direct approach from the Egyptians paid dividends. Mohamed Adel levelled before half-time before Ahmed Abd Elhakim flipped home the winner in the closing quarter.

They are back in action in their last group game tomorrow against Singapore where they should copper-fasten progression but it will probably be to a quarter-final rather than the direct ticket to the semis for top spot.

Irish Independent

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