It was a marked improvement from the Green Army in today’s fixture against world number 11 Spain that saw them claim a 2-0 victory. The match series marks the first international tests for Ireland since November while the Spanish squad are newly back from a series against world number 5 Australia, themselves in the midst of their Commonwealth Games preparations.
The pace of today’s encounter was significantly higher throughout and Ireland put the hosts under pressure from the opening whistle, with Deidre Duke winning a penalty corner inside the first two minutes. The shot drew a superb save from Maria Helguera in the Spanish goal to prevent the Green Army from taking an early lead. Soon after, Aisling Naughton was unlucky not to get the scoreboard ticking following a pinpoint pass from Nikki Evans. Spain grew into the game as the half went on with Berta Bonastre looking a threat as she linked up with Begona Garcia but rigid Irish defending kept any real chances to a minimum. The opening goal came in the 29th minute as sharp passing from the backline found Gillian Pinder who sent a cross-field ball into the circle for a diving Katie Mullan to send goalward just before half time.
Ireland dominated much of the second half with Zoe Wilson and the experienced Shirley McCay filtering passes through the Spanish line to awaiting Irish targets. The deserved second goal came courtesy of a penalty stroke from Lena Tice; awarded following a well worked penalty corner routine that was stopped on the line by the body of a Spanish defender. Grace O’Flanagan made some impressive saves as the Spanish pushed for goals in the final 10 minutes, winning one PC that was well defended by the Green Army.
Commenting on the victory, head coach Graham Shaw said “We’re really happy with that response from the team following on from the disappointment of Tuesday’s result. We must build on the performance of today and carry it forward throughout the camp. We played a lot quicker today, at international pace, which allowed us to play out the game. We now need to build on that platform for Saturday and Sunday’s fixtures”.
The third game of the series takes place on Saturday at 12pm (Irish time).
Starting: G O’Flanagan, H Matthews, L McGuire, L Tice, R Upton, Z Wilson, G Pinder, K Mullan (Captain), D Duke, A Naughton, S Torrans
Subs: E Buckley, Y O’Byrne, S McCay, L Colvin, R Barry, N Evans, E Russell