Ireland off to World Cup ‘18

Seldom will a ridiculous 23-0 result in the Oceania Cup mean so much to those 17,000 kilometres away but Australia’s crushing of Papua New Guinea proved the outcome that confirmed the Irish women’s team will go to the 2018 World Cup.

Ireland’s seventh-place finish in the World League in July was heavily celebrated at the time with anticipation that it would be enough for a ticket to London.

It placed the green army third on a waiting list for the elite competition with the outcomes of the continental championships ultimately deciding their fate.

If already qualified sides won their regional competitions, Ireland would move up the list. Europe and Pan-America worked out.

So when Australia booked their place in the Oceania final to face New Zealand – both countries already confirmed for London – the final step was complete.

Crucially during the summer, Ireland summoned a last-ditch comeback to beat India in Johannesburg, scoring twice in the last 12 minutes to lift them from fifth to third on the waiting list.

The emotional energy of that tournament seemed to take its toll in a lack-lustre European Championship in August with the Irish just about surviving courtesy of a freak result for the Czech Republic against Scotland.

As such, Upton knows further steps up will be needed to be competitive for the World Cup.

“We are going to reflect on it all soon and the big difference in form from Johannesburg to the Euros. We have to learn from it but next summer we have just one focus, the World Cup, rather than two major tournaments.

If you offered us World Cup qualification and staying in the A division, you would have taken it but there is definitely huge room for improvement.

That process begins with a double-header in Ulster for her club with a Saturday game at Ards in the EY league before facing Dungannon on Sunday in the Irish Senior Cup.

For Munster league sides, the cups are the main focus. UCC’s excellent start to the provincial league will be put into some kind of context when they face reigning national champions UCD.

In the Irish Hockey Trophy, there are long road trips, too, for Ashton to Omagh, Bandon to Armagh, Belvedere to Rathgar and Cork C of I to Lisnagarvey. It means the only top line fixture to be played in Munster is the C of I men’s meeting with Cookstown at Garryduff.

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