Plenty for Ireland women to focus on after FIH Series Finals as they look to key dates ahead
It was to end in disappointment for Ireland on the last day of the week-long FIH Series Finals staged at Banbridge’s Havelock Park on Sunday.
A 3-1 loss to Korea in the final in front of a sell-out crowd did not do the Irish justice after what had been an impressive week.
It was the first time the side had come together for a tournament following on from last year’s silver medal at the World Cup.
Expectations were high and new incoming head coach, Sean Dancer - he takes over from interim head coach Gareth Gundie after this tournament - who replaces Graham Shaw - watched the squad this week and will have a solid idea in his head of what needs to be done ahead of the European Championships in August and the Olympic Qualifying tournaments in November.
The only downside to the loss to Korea could be important World Ranking points, which could mean Ireland miss out on hosting one of those play-offs.
Ahead of yesterday’s final, Ireland had achieved two of their targets - top their pool and maintain their bid to make the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.
Both were achieved with ease, the Irish scoring 21 goals in pool wins over Malaysia, Czech Republic and Singapore.
They went on to secure their place in the next stage of the Road to Tokyo with a 4-0 win over Czech Republic.
But the clinical edge they had shown in their earlier games deserted them at the final hurdle in front of an appreciative crowd.
Ireland were obviously disappointed not to have got the job done, but there was certainly nothing to be downbeat about given what is ahead this year.
Ahead of the Olympic Qualifying tournaments is the European Championships in Antwerp which will provide solid opposition to really test the Green Army.
And that will put them in good stead for the next stage in reaching Japan next year.
Interim head coach, Grundie said after the Korea loss: “Pleased with the performance disappointed with the result.
“I thought it was a cagey first few minutes from both sides really, we kind of expected the aerial threat, we were well set, took them down, we had a few opportunities.
“Probably could have gone ahead early on. They adapted to recognise the spaces and we changed it again in the third quarter and got ourselves on top again.
“The big one was probably the disallowed goal. I did not think there was anything wrong with it.
“Maybe if there had been video referrals in place, we certainly would have referred it anyway. The outcome was not to be
“Korea upped their tempo a little bit coming into the fourth quarter and got themselves in front and we battled back hard but it was not to be.”
Larne born goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran admitted yesterday was a case of mixed emotions, but the goal of keeping their hopes of Tokyo 2020 could not be underestimated.
“I think we left a little bit out there and did not take the opportunities when we had them,” she said.
“But the important thing was to qualify for the next round of Olympic qualifiers and we did that .
“There is plenty to be positive about. We wanted to get the job done on Saturday (in the semi-final) and we did, but it is always about building to the next phase.
“We still have a lot going on before the qualifiers with Europe and we are excited about that.”