Jaded Ireland women down and out
IRELAND 0 SOUTH AFRICA 4
Weary Ireland finished the Women's World Hockey League event in Valencia yesterday defeated, battered and far from Olympic qualification.
The dream of going to Rio finally evaporated on Saturday in the 6-1 loss to the United States and the four goals they shipped without replay to South Africa rounded off a grim weekend.
Darren Smith's tenure as coach concluded on a low note just a few days after his side ran highly rated China to a shoot-out in the battle for a top four finish having topped their pool in the preliminary stages.
The Irish never recovered from the trauma of that nerve-jangling sudden-death reverse and their jaded outlook was not helped by the absence of Shirley McCay (suspended) and Chloe Watkins (injured) for the South Africa match.
They were 1-0 down at the break and leaked three more in the second half before Nikki Evans, who grabbed a hat-trick against the same opposition earlier in the tournament, sustained a nasty facial injury.
Kiwi Smith is set to return to New Zealand, leaving Graham Shaw to pick up morale and plot the team's campaign at the European championships later this summer.
Meanwhile, the Irish men's squad is in Antwerp preparing their bid to reach the Rio Games, with a fixture against Great Britain to start the ball rolling tomorrow.
IRELAND - A McFerran, C Sargent, E Smyth, K Mullan, M Frazer, A Connery, E Colvin, N Daly, H Matthews, A O'Flanagan, A Meeke. Subs: K Dillon, Y O'Byrne, G Pinder, N Evans, E Gray.