Wednesday 21 March 2018

Women's Hockey: Symmons and Watkins earn Irish surprise opening scalp

Ireland's women got off to a dream start in the FIH Champions Challenge I that kicked off at Belfield yesterday with a surprise victory over India.

Nikki Symmons, who also represents Ireland in cricket, settled Irish nerves with an early goal. Emma Smyth won a short corner and Symmons pounced on a loose ball, scoring with more of a cricket than a hockey shot, after the first runner deflected Michelle Harvey's shot.

The girls in green went from strength to strength with midfielders Emma Clarke, Shirley McCay and Smyth directing traffic well, and after the break they continued to push forward.

The second goal came 14 minutes into the second half. Having squandered a one-on-one chance midway through the first half, Chloe Watkins was not going to miss again. Lisa Jacob's superb first touch lay-off from the top of the circle set up the teenager and she slotted home from a narrow angle on the baseline.

India pulled one back 11 minutes from time after goalkeeper Emma Gray saved a short corner strike, only for Jasjeet Kaur Handa to tap in an easy rebound. Gray was called into duty many times in a frantic final 10 minutes but Ireland hung on to claim all three points.

Captain Alex Speers was delighted with her team's performance. "We played really well," she said. "We got our tactics spot on, kept to the gameplan and executed the tactics. The performance showed all the hard work over the past six months and we couldn't be happier."

Goalscorer Symmons said that the tournament is very different from others she's played in -- in a good way. "We usually start off tournaments so badly, this is a nice change -- a great way to start," she laughed. "India are ranked 11th in the world and came ninth in the last World Cup, and we are currently 16th, so we are delighted."

Ireland play their second group match today at 3.30pm against Azerbaijan at Belfield.

Ireland: Emma Gray GK; Michelle Harvey; Cliodhna Sargent; Emma Smyth; Emma Clarke; Alex Speers; Shirley McCay; Jean McDonnell; Julia O'Halloran; Sinead McCarthy; Nikki Symmons. Reserves: Lisa Jacob; Aine Connery; Audrey O'Flynn; Chloe Watkins, Elizabeth Colvin.

Sunday Indo Sport

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