Ireland 1 (Upton), Great Britain 2 (Owsley, Roberston).
It’s been 497 days since the Irish women’s squad played their last international match on home soil, but on a cold and blustery day in Queen’s University, Belfast, the team returned to the pitch in excellent form.
Anna O’Flanagan brought a strong attacking energy from the get-go, creating several chances for Ireland in the opening quarter. A penalty corner to GB early in the first quarter was the only real opportunity to present itself for GB with Ireland the dominant team for the first half of the match. A deflection from Unsworth to Ansley was defended, with the rebound shot hitting the back board after an umpire whistle had gone keeping the sides nil all.
Upton put Ireland in the lead shortly after when a penalty stroke was award for a tackle on O’Flanagan in the circle. Grace O’Flanagan was strong in goal through the first half, with a shot from Roberston saved well. Michelle Carey and Sarah McAuley made their presence well known throughout the first quarter. GB’s Jones managed a lone run towards the Irish goal, however McAuley was on hand to push her back out in the last chance of the quarter for GB. Torrans and Carey continued to press at the opposite end of the pitch until the end of quarter buzzer.
Anna O’Flanagan was on fire again as the second quarter got underway, defending a GB attack on the Irish circle in the opening minute. Jones made another attempt to get a clear shot on the Ireland goal, however Hannah McLoughlin was on hand to keep her at bay. Lizzie Colvin provided Naomi Carroll the chance to take a reverse shot on the GB goal, which went just wide of the mark. A penalty Corner to Ireland saw a Barr deflection and Upton flick saved by Hinch. GB’s Owlsey was denied a chance as McLoughlin expertly stepped in to keep Ireland in the lead. Owsley returned again shortly after, this time managing to take a shot on the goal, and this time Carey prevented GB from getting on the score board.
The opening of the second half saw GB hit the post with a penalty stroke. It wasn’t long before GB were back along the left wing, shooting across the square with the equaliser secured from Ansley. Ireland were back attacking shortly after, with Malseed taking a reverse shot at the goal which went wide of the target.
GB were awarded a penalty corner 10minutes in to the second half, with Liz Murphy this time showing off her skill with an impressive save on the line. Malseed secured another opportunity for herself getting inside the GB circle shortly afterwards, but was defended off the goal. Upton continued to press but was forced out also.
A penalty corner to Ireland saw Carroll deflect to Matthews for a shot. The shot was saved, however the rebound resulted in a scuffle for the ball with Evans getting the ball across the goal to be tapped in although the umpire’s whistle had already gone.
Robertson secured the final goal of the game in the opening minute of the final quarter, giving GB the lead. GB became the more dominant of the two teams as the final quarter unfolded, creating more and more opportunities for themselves. Despite this, Ireland remained strong with O’Flanagan, Carey, and Hawkshaw all continuing to create chances near the GB circle.
Speaking after the match, Captain Katie Mullan said “It’s always a tight game [with GB], and we’ve come away a number of times thinking we should have won, and today would maybe be one of those days, where split second decisions where we’ve switched off and they’ve punished us. That’s what they do so well, and you just can’t afford to give them those opportunities in international hockey, so we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and learn from those tomorrow.”
The second match of the series takes place tomorrow at 17:00. Coverage starts from 16:30 on RTE2, and 16:50 on BBC Sport NI.
Ireland: G O’Flanagan; S McCay; S McAuley; H Matthews; K Mullan; R Upton; S Hawkshaw; L Colvin; N Evans; A O’Flanagan; N Carroll; L Murphy; H McLoughlin; B Barr; M Frazer; M Carey; Z Malseed; S Torrans.
GB: J Hunter, S Jones; S Robertson; S Evans; I Petter; S McCallin; S Townsend; L Owsley; L Unsworth; F Crackles; L Wilkinson; G Balsdon; G Ansley; H Pearne-Webb; A Toman; M Hinch.