HOCKEY: Ireland earn battling victory over Belgium

Anna O'Flanagan was on target for Ireland
Anna O'Flanagan was on target for Ireland

Ireland 3 Belgium 2

A determined performance saw Ireland secure a 3-2 victory over higher ranked Belgium at the Merrion Fleet Arena in Rathdown School.

An early error in the Irish defence meant Ayeisha McFerran was called into action in the opening minute and the Irish backline came under consistent pressure for the opening 10 minutes.

As Hannah Matthews hobbled off injured Zoe Wilson cleared the ball of the line but the resulting Penalty Corner saw Anouk Raes give her side the lead as she slapped the ball into the corner.

The Green Army needed only one minute to draw the game level; Ali Meeke found Anna O’Flanagan in the circle who volleyed the ball goal-bound in the 17th minute.

Ireland were perhaps unlucky to go into half time 2-1 down; Jill Boon gave her side the lead in the 33rd minute as she hit the ball high into the net from a rebounded PC drag flick.

Ireland rarely struggled to create chances but the final execution seemed to be lacking as the second half ticked by. Both O’Flanagan and Meeke pirouetted into the circle from opposite sides with the same outcome; one touch too far saw the Belgian defence clear their lines.

The equaliser came courtesy of Katie Mullan who was quickest to a rebound from Deirdre Duke’s initial shot. Ireland looked the more determined for the remainder and the deserved winner came in the 63rd minute from a routine penalty corner. The ball slipped to McCay who swept it on the waiting stick of O’Flanagan to deflect it home. Wilson was called on to make a diving save in the closing minutes to prevent a Belgian equaliser.

After the match, head coach Graham Shaw said: “As the game went on we showed a lot of character and played ourselves back into the game. To get three goal against a Belgium side is a real plus but there’s a lot of improvements to make, and we’re looking forward to the next match.”

Ireland face Chile on Tuesday at 7pm in Rathdown School.

Squad: Frazer (Captain), McFerran (GK), McCay, Tice, Pinder, Whelan, Watkins, Colvin, A O’Flanagan, Wilson, Duke

Subs: G O’Flanagan (GK), O’Bryne, Mullan, Matthews, Meeke, Barry, Carroll