World Cup final heartache for Ireland as classy Netherlands end the dream
Netherlands 6 Ireland 0
Ireland's World Cup dream was ruthlessly crushed by a classy Netherlands side, who justified their status as the number one ranked team in the world to reclaim their crown with a facile 6-0 win.
It was the end of a spectacular and very much unexpected journey for a gutsy Ireland team who have gripped the nation in recent weeks.
Ultimately, the final was a step too far, and while the Green Army were dominated from start to finish, the heavy result shouldn't detract from what is one of the greatest sporting achievements from an Irish team.
A silver medal is not to be sniffed at and for an amateur outfit, who have gone toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of the hockey world, the hope now is that reaching a World Cup final helps elevate their status back home.
The squad will return to Dublin tomorrow where a heroes welcome is sure to greet them, but for a proud group who went beyond their own wildest expectations, they will be bitterly disappointed by the manner in which they were easily opened up so often.
In front of a sold out crowd at London's Olympic Stadium, which was predominantly made up of swathes of green, the Irish supporters once again outnumbered the opposition in huge numbers.
The boisterous support for the girls in green wasn't enough to get them over the line however as the Netherlands stamped their class all over proceedings.
The warning signs were evident from as early as the second minute when Caia van Maasakker flashed a shot wide.
The tireless Anna O'Flanagan brought some brief respite for the Irish defence, but they fell behind in the seventh minute when the Netherlands made their bright start count on the scoreboard.
Ireland 'keeper Aleisha McFerran who has had an outstanding tournament pulled off a fine save to repel the Dutch attack, but when Ireland failed to clear their lines, Lidewij Welten was on hand to fire an early shot in at McFeeran's near post.
There was no let up in the Dutch pressure for the remainder of the quarter, but Ireland's stubborn defence held firm, even after defending two penalty corners.
Ireland manager Graham Shaw would have been calling for cool heads at the interval but that was easier said than done in the searing London heat and his side fell two goals behind three minutes after the restart.
McFerran again came to Ireland's rescue with a cracking save but Kelly Jonker was quickest to react and she stroked the ball home.
Two very nearly became three, but for a stunning block on the line from Roisin Upton from a fourth Dutch penalty corner.
There was only so long the Green Army could withstand the continued onslaught however and with two minutes of the second quarter remaining, Kitty van Male put her side 3-0 to the good after a well-worked move from another penalty corner.
It went from bad to worse a minute later when Malou Pheninckx cracked a high shot beyond McFerran's reach.
A 4-0 half time lead left Ireland with a mountain to climb but the rampant Dutch were in no mood to take their foot off the pedal.
Instead, they added two more goals inside the opening four minutes of the second half, firstly through Marloes Keetels and then Caia van Maasakker via another penalty corner.
Chloe Watkins continued to try and take the game to the Netherlands, with Shirley McCay and Zoe Wilson also putting in huge shifts, but try as they might, the Dutch stood firm.
Another top class McFeeran save midway through the final quarter stopped the rout getting even uglier as Ireland, to their credit kept fighting until the final whistle.
It wasn't the end that they hoped for, but Ireland bow out with their heads held high, having firmly made their mark on the world stage.
Ireland - A McFerran, R Upton, H Matthews, S McCay, Z Wilson; K Mullan (capt), C Watkins, L Colvin, G Pinder; A O’Flanagan, N Evans.
Subs: Y O’Byrne, E Beatty, L Tice, N Daly, D Duke, A Meeke.
Netherlands – A Veenendaal, L Leurink, X de Waard, C Dirkse van den Heuvel (capt), L Welten, C van Maasakker, F Malta, I van den Assem, L Stam, M van Geffen, E de Goede.
Subs: S Koolen, K van Male, M Phenicckx, M Keetels, K Jonker, L Nunnink.
Umpires: I Presenqui (Arg) & L Delforge (Bel)