Katie Mullan’s 58th-minute winner secured fifth place for Ireland from the women’s EuroHockey Championships in Belgium as they beat Russia 3-2.
It was far from vintage stuff, in Antwerp with the Wilrijkse Plein stadium surviving the aftermath of the men’s hosts all-night party at the venue.
As such, a weary outlook was probably to be expected and it took nearly 20 minutes for the action to start in anger.
Ireland fell behind to Bogdana Sadovaia’s drag-flick but were back on terms in the second half via Nikki Evans and moved in front with 10 minutes to go courtesy of Sarah Hawkshaw’s fortuitous effort.
Russia equalised through Aleksandra Leonova but Mullan swooped for the winner with two minutes left. It was the second time in two games Ireland had snatched victory in the last couple of minutes following Friday’s 2-1 success against Belgium.
That meant a final tally of three wins, one draw and one loss, a decent showing but the semi-final spot proved just out of reach.
Nonetheless, Shirley McCay says it puts Ireland in good shape for October’s Olympic qualifiers, saying they are building on last summer’s World Cup performance.
“We’ve a real drive both in attack and defence,” McCay said. “Not that we didn’t have that last summer but I think we probably rode our luck last summer.
“At this tournament, we created our own performances and our own victories and I think, on another day, we could have been getting draws and wins out of those games and maybe getting to a semi-final.
“The future of this team is bright and it’s something we want to take forward.”
On the flip side on Saturday, the Irish men’s nightmare tournament ended in relegation after a 4-0 loss to Wales, ranked 14 places below them in the world.
A win of any description could have salvaged Ireland’s place in the top tier but two Gareth Furlong goals in the first half has them in all sorts of bother.
Dale Hutchinson and Ben Francis compounded the result and Ireland will now play in the second tier in 2021.
After such a poor tournament, coach Alexander Cox admitted his side “failed” from top to bottom before admitting he was considering whether he is the right man to lead the side into the Olympic qualifiers in late October.
“As a coach, I am responsible and I failed to lead the group to better success in this tournament,” he said.
“I will look in the mirror as good as possible and if I see a future for myself, I would like to stay on. If I don’t see a future for myself, then its better not to stay.”
A McFerran, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, C Watkins, L Colvin, N Daly, H Matthews, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson
R Upton, N Evans, G Pinder, B Barr, A Meeke, D Duke, L Murphy
V Aleksandrina, S Salamatina, K Shumilina, K Koroleva, S Eroshina, A Kolpakova, M Bordolimova, M Drepenkina, B Sadovaia, A Leonova, E Sorokina
V Chepurnova, A Khalimova, I Cheplygina, D Yushkova, K Sanina, V Akeeva, A Iashina
A Faias (POR), C Martin-Schmets (BEL)