Ireland have made the final of the FIH Champions Challenge I beating South Africa in a fast paced and exciting match 2-1. Irish women’s will now face USA in the summit clash at Glasgow tomorrow, Sunday 4th may at 5.45pm.
USA defeated Spain 3-1 after leading 3-0 at half time of other semi final. South Africa and Spain will fight it out for Bronze medal, as Korea take on Belgium for 5th place and hosts Scotland face India for 7th place.
Ireland took a difficult route to the final having to knock out the number one seeds in this tournament (world no 8) Korea in the quarter finals in a tournament that contains four world cup teams.
Ireland went behind in the 8th minute of today’s game when Celia Evans capitalised on great work between Taylor and Cox to get an open shot away to make it 1-0 to South Africa. Ireland rallied well Megan Frazer leveling the sides from a cracking penalty corner strike which took a deflection high into the net in the 15th minute. Both teams worked hard in the remaining minutes of the first half but they could not be separated in the first 35 and the sides broke at one a piece.
Ireland started the second half very well enjoying periods of pressure and possession but South Africa were never far away from their own chances testing the Irish defence. Ireland got a deserved lead in the 45th minute when super work by Katie Mullan along the baseline saw her drop the ball back to a waiting Nikki Evans who made no mistake from the close range shot to make it 2-1.
Ireland continued to goal hunt some fantastic team work creating chances, man of the match Shirley McCay showing great form with the long ball and aerial efforts out the back to set up midfield and forwards.
South Africa looked sure to equalise in the 59th minute when Tarryn Bright stepped up to take a stroke but an in-form Emma Gray in goals saved well to keep her sides lead intact.
The game finished off in end to end fashion but Ireland protected their 2-1 lead well and closed out with a spot in the final tomorrow at 5.45pm against USA.
Commenting after the match Coach Darren Smith was rightly proud of his team’s efforts “I thought we did really well, defensively we were pretty sound I thought for patches of the game we played extremely well. Once we went up 2-1 we absorbed a bit of pressure including Emma Gray saving a stroke and the cross-bar keeping a South African shot out so a couple of things went in our favour.”
Talking about pulling back after going 1-0 down he continued “The team carried on playing, an early goal is never the way you want things to unfold but it was very good we got into the game pulling back with a cracking penalty corner. We started the second half very well and closed the game out. This is a group of young girls that work so hard who want to play good international hockey and to be in the final is fantastic.”