Ireland exit Olympic hockey tournament after defeat to Great Britain

The Irish leave having followed up an opening win against the South Africans with four successive losses
Ireland exit Olympic hockey tournament after defeat to Great Britain

Britain's Susannah Townsend, centre, scores past Ireland goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Ireland 0 Great Britain 2 

Ireland’s ambitions of extending their Olympic hockey adventure into the knockout stages of these Games are over after a convincing defeat to Great Britain in the Japanese capital.

India’s 4-3 win over South Africa earlier in the day did at least allow Sean Dancer’s side to take the field knowing that a win, any win, would be needed if their campaign was to progress beyond the group stages.

It never looked like happening for them.

GB dominated the game and, in truth, Ireland’s hopes were undone not here this evening but yesterday when they came out the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline against India who scored the game’s only goal with three minutes to play and now take that last qualifying spot.

“We were confident going out against GB because we played them a good bit this year,” said Nicci Daly who won her 290th cap on the night. “We have played them a lot over the past few years, we know them quite well.

“We knew we could beat them so we felt really good going out. We thought maybe it would happen for us.”

The Irish leave having followed up an opening win against the South Africans with four successive losses, the first two coming against tournament favourites the Netherlands and then a German side with podium ambitions of its own.

Ireland started slowly here despite the urgency of their task. The hesitancy Chloe Watkins showed when being caught in her first possession was an obvious example of that and Great Britain turned the screw slowly but inexorably until the opening goal popped.

It came two minutes into the second quarter, another penalty corner resulting in a Grace Baldson shot that was saved by Ayeisha McFerran but deflected only as far as Susannah Townsend. Lurking, and unmarked, at the far post, she helped the rebound over the line.

That actually seemed to spur Ireland into action.

Time and again they tried to fire in long and hard deliveries through the packed GB defence but it was a well-worked move that left Daly with the time and room to turn and direct a fierce shot that flew away from the danger area off goalkeeper Madeleine Claire Hinch.

Ireland continued to probe for a decent spell after that but GB had two very good chances to extend the lead shortly before the interval, neither of which were taken.

A tall order became a Himalayan task two minutes after the interval when Hannah Martin showed a beautiful bit of skill to flick a powerful Elena Sian Rayer cross past McFerran with a flick of the stick. An umpire’s referral followed but the effort stood.

That was it for the scoring. And for Ireland's tournament.

The players and staff gathered for a highly emotional huddle afterwards and many players were still in tears as they walked through the mixed zone.

Seven of this squad is aged 29 or over. Retirements are likely. Change is on the horizon as a new, shorter, Olympic cycle begins, starting with World Cup qualifiers in October.

For now, there is only disappointment.

“We just didn’t really perform consistently, it’s a bit disappointing,” said Daly, “but it is what it is. It’s been a fantastic experience.

“It’s the Olympics and at times we definitely matched the best in the world and we can be proud of that. And we can be proud of the team today.

“I think there’ll be a lot of positives to take forward for the team going into the next cycle.”

Ireland: A McFerran (GK), C Watkins, S Torrans, R Upton, D Duke, K Mullan, S McCay, S Hawkshaw, E Tice, S McAuley, A O’Flanagan.

Rolling subs: H Matthews, N Daly, H McLoughlin, L Holden, Z Malseed.

Great Britain: CM Hinch (GK), L Unsworth, AF Toman, SL Jones, S Townsend, S Robertson, ES Rayer, G Ansley, H Pearne-Webb, S McCallin, L Owlsley.

Rolling subs: H Martin, I Petter, LJ Wilkinson, FA Crackles, G Balsdon.

Umpires: C de la Fuente (Arg), E Yamada (Jpn).

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