It was an even affair in the opening exchanges with Katie Mullan creating Ireland’s first chance as she turned from her marker and sent a snap shot towards goal that was deflected narrowly wide. Ali Meeke followed up that deflection by sending a ball across goal but the outstretched Naomi Carroll couldn’t quite reach. The Japanese goal came somewhat against the run of play in the 12thminute when Minami Shimizu sent a carefully placed shot high into the net. Grace O’Flanagan made a strong stick save from Japan’s first penalty corner but the goal had taken the wind out of the Irish sails slightly as Japan pressed for a second with Akiko Kato acting as the linchpin in midfield. But the Irish defense were patient and disciplined and there were few real chances for the world number 12 in the rest of the half.
The Green Army came out with renewed vigor in the second half and Mullan, in outstanding form throughout the series, found herself in the circle but couldn’t quite connect cleanly with the ball and Megumi Kageyama made the clearance. Japan amassed a further 3 penalty corners but the Irish defence ably dealt with the threats. Anna O’Flanagan pulled her side level from a well worked PC routine that saw her deflect home Hannah Matthews sweep from the top of the circle. The final quarter saw the Green Army go up a gear again as Duke continued to cause the Japanese defence trouble with one effort going just wide and another setting up O’Flanagan in front of goal, only for Kageyama to make a super close range save. But the winner came in the 59thminute from another PC and Matthews sent a powerful sweep through Kageyama to give Ireland the victory over the world number 12.
Starting: G O’Flanagan, Y O’Byrne, N Evans, K Mullan (Captain), S McCay, E Beatty, S Loughran, L Colvin, H Matthews, A O’Flanagan, Z Wilson
Subs: E Tice, N Carroll, A McFerran, C Watkins, N Daly, D Duke, A Meeke