A loss in the final but Ireland's hockey players to return home heroes

Ireland celebrate coming second in the Vitality Women's Hockey World Cup Final at The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London.
Ireland celebrate coming second in the Vitality Women's Hockey World Cup Final at The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, London.

The girls in green may not have taken gold, but Ireland's hockey players will still return home conquering heroes, after the underdogs made it to the World Cup final in London as rank outsiders.

In scorching hot temperature Ireland's female hockey team struggled in the Lee Valley Hockey Centre, against the Netherlands, ranked number one in the world and who in the end lifted the World Cup for the eighth time with a 6-0 win.

Despite their defeat, Ireland are expected to climb to 10th in the world, ranking for the first time, after an outstanding tournament that seen them come from nowhere to take out some of the best ranked teams in the world.

Many of the squad have played camogie at under-age level, with some of the stars of the World Cup, including captain Katie Mullan, enjoying success at All-Ireland level with Eoghan Rua in Coleraine.

Larne keeper Ayeisha McFerran made her international debut a day before she turned 18, she is now a world great having been named goalkeeper of the tournament, putting her agility down to nine years of Irish dancing.

Shirley McCay is Ireland’s most capped sportswoman, with 271 appearances to her name since making her debut in January 2007, she hails from Drumquin in Co Tyrone.

Lizzie Colvin, from Co Armagh started playing adult hockey in her early teens.

Derry’s Megan Frazer was part of the Northern Ireland Under-16 soccer squad but decided to focus on hockey, saying soccer came to her too easy, getting international call-ups within a year of starting to play.

Politicians were quick to praise the players who have inspired the nation, the first time Ireland have made a World Cup final in any sport.

President Michael D Higgins said the underdog team had broken new ground.

"I wish to offer my warmest congratulations to the Irish women's hockey team on their historic achievement of winning the silver medal at the World Cup.

"To reach the final was a fantastic accomplishment and to do so with such skill, dedication and team spirit is truly inspirational.

"This team has broken new ground for Irish hockey and Irish sport and their momentous achievement will encourage young women and men all around the island of Ireland to take up sport.

"For that, and for their success on the pitch, the team and support staff deserve all of our thanks."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the women were "legends of Irish sport".

The Northern Ireland Office said the women should be incredibly proud.

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt siad; "No disgrace losing to a better team but more positively huge motivation to come back stronger next time. Take great pride in the Irish Women’s Hockey Team".

DUPleader Arlene Foster said the team were "inspiring a generation of young players".

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said; "It has been said so many times but is still worthy of repetition - the Irish womens' hockey team is legend".