Irish hockey's penalty hero Upton: It’s just up, up, up from here

By Stephen Findlater

“Pinch me.”

Roisin Upton could scarcely sum up the euphoric mood as Ireland reached a World Cup semi-final for the first time in London last night.

The Cork Harlequins player scored the vital first in the shoot-outs, the sweeper admitting she was probably not an expected person to turn to but she had a feeling in her gut she could make a difference.

“My odds wouldn’t be great.” she said of her previous shoot-outs. “I have missed more than I have scored.

“But with a shoot-out, you can be as good as you want in practice but it is about how you feel on the day. I backed myself and wanted to take one! I have never gone on my reverse before either. I tried not to overthink it; if you have a plan and the goalie reads it, you start to panic, so I read what she did, gained half a yard and nailed it.”

As for the game, it was one in which defences were on top. The Limerick woman revelled in that side of the battle as they got things spot on from the defensive side of things.

“It was tough, so tough. It was end to end at times and India put up such a big fight as we knew they would. They are dangerous with the crash balls but we felt we dealt with them well, setting up a barrier to not concede as many corners [as the last two games].

“That was a real focus. We didn’t get the chances we would have liked but we held on to the end and once it came to the shoot-out, there was a number of people putting their hands up to take one. When that happens, you do feel confident.”

That self-belief grew with each quarter, built on the large green contingent in the stands behind their dug-out.

“We tried to play at a much higher tempo than the pool game and thankfully it wasn’t as hot; we had a good 10 degrees on that day and the atmosphere and the support was huge. Nobody can get over the amount of people over to support us, the Irish people living here who have got on board, even the English people. It’s phenomenal.”

It sets up a semi-final date with Spain, the other rank outsider making waves here in London. Upton says it is certainly a tie Ireland can look to with ever more positive vibes.

“I don’t think anyone would have foreseen any of this. Spain had a fantastic match against Germany; fair play to them. We played them four times in January and shared it two a piece so it will be very even. We are really looking forward it.

It’s just up, up, up from here. You dream about moving up the ranks from 16th and think it will be a slower process. We had belief coming to the World Cup; that’s one thing, but to get out there, doing it, proving to yourselves and for a reason. To be in this position is huge. I can’t believe it.

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