HOCKEY: Ireland lose to South Africa

Ireland coach Darren Smith
Ireland coach Darren Smith

IRELAND 0 SOUTH AFRICA 4

Ireland’s World League Round 3 campaign came to an end on a low-key note as they fell 4-0 to South Africa in the seventh place playoff, meaning they finished eighth overall in Valencia.

The side was unable to lift themselves for a tie with solely world ranking points on the table and a more energetic South Africa took advantage, exacting some revenge for their opening day 4-1 defeat to the same opposition.

Candace Manuel’s first half deflection from a corner gave them the early advantage. Lisa-Marie Deetlefs slapped home a second after the big break before Lilian du Plessis fired a rasping shot to the top corner and Kelly Madsen scrambled home the fourth to complete a strong win.

It was a rough ending for the green army who came within the width of the post of a semi-final berth and Olympic qualification last Thursday against China.

Coach Darren Smith, in his last match in charge, said that the heartache at the hands of the world number seven side was probably still in evidence.

“That game – 4-0 – is not a reflection of this tournament or the girls,” he said.

To that end, Ireland showed they can match teams in the world’s top ten in this competition, beating world number five side USA 2-0, number 11s South Africa 4-1 as well as Uruguay while also drawing with China in normal time.

With that in mind, Smith said he believes that while this tournament ended on a low note, there is plenty of scope for Ireland to qualify for the World Cup in two years time, especially with the competition increased to 16 sides.

“The girls have better hockey in front of them than what they have behind them – our captain’s 23 and has been one of the best players in the tournament.

“I would love to see us at the World Cup, not only being there but finishing in the top ten. One of my huge desires was to change the way we play the game, to have a more physical style and to play the game with more skill.“