Ireland 1 (Upton), Great Britain 1 (Petters).
The third and final match of the SoftCo Series took place this afternoon in Queen’s University Belfast, seeing an even performance from both GB and Ireland. Both teams having a large number of close opportunities in the circle throughout the match.
GB’s Owlsey got the game off to a fast start, passing to Rayer in the Irish circle, but Ireland defended well and created an opportunity shortly. O’Flanagan had the first real opportunity for Ireland, with Hinch’s save rebounding just out of Zara Malseed’s reach. Both sides brought plenty of energy to the game, seemingly relevantly evenly matched in the opening quarter. Some nice skill from Michelle Carey brought the ball right up the pitch create chance for O’Flanagan, however Hinch prevented her from putting Ireland on the score board.
There was some strong play seen in the backline from Tice and McCay pushing the ball up the pitch, with McFerran quickly clearing it away some of the GB opportunities that got through the Ireland defence. Strong running by Malseed saw Ireland awarded the first penalty corner of the game but Tice’s deflection was defended by GB. A challenge on the Irish circle saw Upton coming through with strong interception, running it up to Carroll winning a penalty corner by pulling it into a GB foot. Tice took the shot again, this time resulting in another penalty corner being awarded, with the following penalty corner also being kept out.
Owsley’s challenge on the Irish circle provided a penalty corner opportunity for GB, with Pearne-Webb’s shot finding Mullan’s foot and awarding a second penalty corner opportunity. A similar play saw the ball kept out and the first quarter ended 0 – 0.
An intense second quarter saw both teams challenging each other but neither being able to finish off the plays. Megan Frazer gave some strong passes down the line towards the forwards. Matthews managed to pass the ball to the top of the circle, allowing Daly to take it on the reverse, however it was a strong save from Hinch again. GB countered this with a fast-paced play, entering the Irish circle but McFerran slid under the ball and cleared it, while Frazer soared over her unable to slow her pace in her commitment to defend the goal. Ireland used the backline a lot opening up the game, but GB continued to try forcing them out left for most of the play. A McCay pass gave Watkins a long shot up the middle of the pitch towards a quite GB circle, however it was just out of reach of Naomi Carroll before going out of play. McCallin followed up with challenged on McFerran who calmly booted the ball out via the wing. Michelle Carey received the first green card of the game with some fumble tackles with 90 seconds left of the clock. Both teams continued to challenge each other throughout, with good approach play, however, strong defence denied the final touches for both sides. The half-time buzzer went, and the sides remained nil all.
GB got the second half underway with an aerial seeing the first free hit go to Ireland. After a bit of pressure on the Irish defence with GB pressing into the circle, Daly managed to enter the GB circle. Despite finding GB defence, it supplied Watkins with another opportunity on goal, but the ball just slipped past the post.
Frazer continued showing a strong front, reading the game well taking a bit of pressure off the defence as GB managed to take a couple of chances at getting into the circle. Torrans slipped the ball up to the GB circle where GB take back possession. An interception by Watkins sees a free to Ireland taken quickly by Daly who wins a penalty corner for Ireland. The ball is played into Tice tipping off a GB player awarding Ireland another penalty corner. Yet another penalty corner is awarded, with the final one deflected out wide and moves back down the pitch.
GB respond by pushing the ball back down the pitch, giving them control for a spell, with a few attempts at entering the circle but a strong defence saw Tice clearing the ball up towards Mullan in the GB circle, who dives to it but slides under the ball missing it slightly as it goes wide of the goal.
Ireland were awarded another penalty corner, with Upton with the drag flick, which is saved by Hinch bring it into one of her own players awarding Ireland another penalty corner. Upton again, this time Hinch controls it pushing it wide. GB putting the pressure back on McFerran again but McFerran swiping under and clearing the ball. Tice also showing a strong front not allowing GB in again pushing it out the wings. The last 30 sec see Ireland defending their goal with some nice passing between Tice and McCay.
After an intense penultimate quarter, both sides come back to the pitch fighting for a goal. The first penalty corner of the final quarter goes to Ireland. Daly interjecting, to Upton and Watkins at top shooting but the ball is saved again by Hinch. Frazer received a green card, but O’Flanagan finishing off the play by winning a PC. The shot comes in for McCay but is deflected wide.
While Ireland is down to ten players, GB’s Ansley continues to put the pressure on. Upton remains solid in defence, pushing GB away from the goal putting the ball up to Mullan, seeing Daly securing another penalty corner. The ball is fumbled at the top but taken under control, out to Upton, before another penalty corner is secured. The ball is stopped on the line under the body of Hinch after a scramble at the mouth of the goal looking like one of the Carey’s had gotten it across. A penalty stroke is awarded to Ireland and Upton steps up to secure the lead for Ireland, putting her third shot past Hinch in three games.
GB seemed to bring a renewed energy to the final few minutes to gain an equaliser. Robertson received a green card in the last five minutes putting GB down to ten players. Despite being a player down, Townsend presses on the circle, McCay takes back possession for Ireland in the home circle before being intercepted by Petters who steps up on the reverse stick beating McFerran, putting it into the corner giving GB the equalizer.
A yellow card for Watkins saw GB putting immense pressure on Ireland in the last few minutes. GB stretched the pitch rolling the ball around the back attempting one or two shots but remained denied another goal. Upton showing strong, keeping calm and controlling the ball denying GB any entry to the circle. A chance for Costello is shot across the circle and goes out wide. GB forced the ball into the circle in the last few seconds, but Ireland defends well seeing the game finish Ireland 1 – 1 GB.
Speaking after the match, Roisin Upton said “Immediate response is disappointment to the third game, the opportunity was there to win it by a couple. But in general, it’s been a fantastic four days, and we’ll take a lot of confidence into whatever comes next.
We’ve been training hard over the last eight months after we came out of lockdown in September, so it’s been great to have these games to get tested against the best. They’re the reigning Olympic Champions and we’ve got three fantastic games in the bag now that we can reflect on and look back on. There’ll be a lot of take away, it’s been a good four days.”
Ireland: A McFerran, Z Malseed, R Upton, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, C Watkins, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, S McAuley; M Carey, M Frazer, G O’Flanagan, N Daly, H Matthews, S Torrans, N Carey, D Duke.
Great Britain: S Robertson, I Petter, L Owsley, F Crackles, G Ansley, J Hunter, S Evans, E Rayer, S Townsend, S McCallin, L Unsworth, L Wilkinson, G Balsdon, H Pearne-Webb, A Costello, M Hinch, S Heesh, E Burge.