Ireland progress to semi-finals of World League 2

Ireland's Shirley McCay
Ireland's Shirley McCay

The Ireland women’s hockey team made it four wins out of four at the World League 2 tournament in Dublin when they booked their place in the semi finals with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

The result means that one more victory will be enough to send the girls in green into the next stage of the Olympic qualifying process.

As Ireland are the top ranked nation in the competition they will be expected to certainly clinch the top two finish required to progress, if not win the gold medals.

Belarus lie in wait for Darren Smith’s team who face the former Russians in the last four on Saturday after they beat Ukraine 5-1 on Thursday to advance.

Ireland were in almost total control but, if Smith had any complaints, then they would be centred around a disappointing strike rate.

Despite their dominance, Ireland missed several opportunities to put the game to bed although Lithuania seldom looked like scoring themselves.

Ireland forced six penalty corners in the first half and the inevitable goal came from one of them as Nikki Evans found the net after a good move down the right.

Two minutes later after a defender had been guilty of ‘feet’ in the circle following a Shirley McCay shot, her fellow Ulster woman and Ireland captain Megan Frazer despatched the resulting penalty stroke.

Ireland continued to dominate but failed to add to their tally despite having the vast majority of the possession.

In yesterday’s other quarter final, Canada defeated Austria 5-0 and the winners could well meet the hosts in Sunday’s final, providing Ireland don’t slip up against Belarus in the interim.

Meanwhile, back home while Ards have won the Premier League title thanks to Wednesday’s 6-2 clincher over Harlequins, the struggle goes on for the Deramore side.

Unfortunately, they must meet Ards again on Saturday and then finish with a game against deposed champions Pegasus on Wednesday night.

However, they do have the benefit of a one point advantage over fellow strugglers Lisnagarvey, who finish their programme on Saturday.

To add to an already fascinating scenario, Garvey have a potentially less difficult game at home to Lurgan as they go in search of a win to put the pressure on Quins.

Nevertheless, it may all be academic as far as the relegation play-off is concerned depending on the vote of the Ulster SGM next week as relegation may be put on hold due to the new Irish Hockey League although neither contender will want to rely on that.