Ireland Women enjoy seven up as they roast Turkey to qualify for EuroHockey 2023
IRELAND women's hockey team comfortably qualified for next year's EuroHockey Championships by thrashing Turkey 7-0 in their last qualifier match.
The Green Army would still have progressed with a draw, having already defeated Poland and the Czech Republic, but seven different scorers found the net in a comprehensive victory at the Sport Ireland campus, Abbotstown, Dublin.
Michelle Carey opened the home account and further goals from Naomi Carroll and Katie McGee ensured the win by half-time. However, the goals kept flowing, through Niamh Carey, Deirdre Duke, Roisin Upton, and Sarah Hawkshaw as the Irish ladies emphatically sealed their place at the continental finals in Moenchengladbach, Germany, a year from now.
Captain Katie Mullan scored the only goal of the game in the 21st minute of the match on Saturday to see off the Czechs, after two goals from Upton and one from Duke had seen off Poland 3-0 in the opener.
Mullan struck with a powerful backhand shot and while her side had numerous other chances to make the game safer, this was enough to record the win.
"It feels good," said Mullan of the success. "We left a couple of goals out there but it was important to get the win."
Ireland were in control from start to finish with the Czechs unable to muster a shot on Ayeisha McFerran's goal but Ireland were unable to build on their first half lead to make the result safer, sooner.
Visiting keeper Barbora Chechakova produced some wonder saves before the goal, somehow denying Mullan from close range in the third minute with a sprawling block when the net beckoned.
The lively Duke also went close while a rasping Mullan shot also hit the outside of the goal as the Czech goal led a charmed life.
Michelle Carey's direct running was a constant source of pressure while Duke's close range deflection was tipped over by Cechakova from a Sarah McAuley baseline cross.
And the goal inevitably arrived when Róisín Upton's long overhead ball was not dealt with as the lurking Mullan picked up the ball and fired home on her backhand.
Mullan said they had to take more of their chances, and they certainly did so against Turkey, who are ranked 33rd in the world compared to Ireland at 13th.
"We are getting closer and closer to being a clinical side," said the Ballymoney woman. "There are a few of us up front who haven't played a while lot together so we are building those connections.
"Each game, it feels like we are on the brink [of cutting loose]. We know we need to put more in the back of the net but, all in all, to be as in control as we were from the first to last minute was a big positive."
Mullan was also pleased with the level and range of support at the Sport Ireland Campus venue where many kids enjoyed meet and greet post-match with the Irish skipper and her team-mates.
"It is fantastic to be here. We put a lot of training into this pitch but to play national games with a home crowd and so many young fans is brilliant.
"It's fantastic when you ask the kids where they are from, they are from all round the country - it's not just Leinster kids, there's kids from Munster and Ulster and some from Connacht. It's fantastic to see and we need to encourage this more to be able to repeat this at the Sport Ireland Campus."