HOCKEY: Rio dream over for Ireland

Ireland Megan Frazer on the attack
Ireland Megan Frazer on the attack

Ireland 1 USA 6

The Irish women’s bid for an Olympic spot came to an end as they fell 6-1 to world number five side USA in Valencia at the World League Round 3.

It means that Ireland will contest the seventh and eighth place playoff on Sunday in their final game of the tournament, knowing that they are out of the range of potential qualifiers for Rio 2016.

Two goals in the opening ten minutes from Lauren Crandall put Ireland on the back foot.

Katie O’Donnell added another couple to make it 4-0 in the third quarter before Anna O’Flanagan – with her fourth goal of the competition – got one back.

But later strikes from Paige Selenski and Jill Witmer completed the rout.

For Irish coach Darren Smith, it was a “devastating” outcome from a tournament filled with fine performances.

Wins over South Africa, Uruguay and USA saw Ireland advance to the quarter-finals as group winners where Ireland pushed world number seven side China all the way but ultimately lose in a shoot-out with Olympic qualification on the line.

Coming back from that defeat, Smith said that bouncing back from that crushing defeat was always going to be a huge psychological battle.

“The girls put their heart and soul into this tournament, trying to get an Irish team to the Olympics. Today, we weren’t at the races. Against China, we were,” he said.

“We were devastated after China. It’s hard to say how much of an impact that had. Cut and dried, from a match point of view, we were slow out of the blocks and it took the game away from us.

“Maybe it could have been a factor but it is hard to know. We worked bloody hard to get the girls back up but that’s life.”

To come so close and miss out in such cruel fashion, Smith added that Olympic qualification was within touching distance and says that there is certainly the potential to break through in the coming years.

He added; “We know if the team qualifies, the public are going to love it and the hockey public will love it. As a Kiwi, I would love to see Ireland at the Olympics. It would be fantastic for the sport in Ireland and, for me, the sport is healthy. It just needs that little boost and I am telling you, it will come.”

For now, Smith’s side have to pick themselves back up for the seventh place playoff, a tie that offers extra world ranking points but little else.

“The psychological side of things will be the hardest tomorrow. Not just the loss but the nature of the loss. We were well beaten but we’ll work hard and understand that we are representing our country. We have to man up and be ready to go; seventh is better than eighth.”

Ireland play at 10.30am (Irish time) in that tie.