It was not quite the fairytale ending that Ireland had hoped for, as the Netherlands stormed to a 6-0 win in the Hockey World Cup Final. The world’s number one side retained their crown as world champions and claimed an eighth World Cup title at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in front of a sell-out crowd.
On a historic day for Ireland, the Irish Women’s Hockey team became the first ever team to qualify for a World Cup final in any sport. Ranked as the second lowest side in the tournament, the Green Army exceeded all expectations during a magical campaign which will live long in Irish history.
Hoping to pull off one more major upset and perhaps the biggest of them all, Ireland had to overcome a Netherlands team who had scored 28 goals in the tournament and just conceded one. With 63 wins from their last 67 matches with coach Alyson Annan at the helm, there was no illusion on the might of the task.
With hockey fever sweeping the nation, a huge Irish contingent made their way to the stadium to witness this historic occasion. With the stadium painted green with Irish jerseys, there was no doubt who the crowd wanted to win.
It was the Netherlands who took the lead in the first-quarter. After a brilliant stop by the penalty-shootout heroine Ayeisha McFerran, Dutch forward Lidewij Welten swivelled and struck a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the Irish goal to make it 1-0. McFerran was voted as goalkeeper of the tournament whilst Welten received the player of the tournament.
Soon after, the Netherlands bagged a second. Again, McFerran made a good stop before Kelly Jonker capitalised on a goalmouth scramble to fire in a reverse-shot and make it 2-0.
Although they will be disappointed, Ireland will find some comfort in the fact that this Netherlands side are genuinely special. Alyson Annan’s side were impeccable, their control breath-taking and their passing and movement both mind-blowing at times. Their incredible individual talent mixed with fantastic organisation and structure, mastered from hours and hours on the training ground, makes this Netherlands side one of the best of all time.
In the second-quarter, the Netherlands scored their third and fourth. Kitty van Male, the tournament’s top-scorer, slapped the ball home from a penalty corner which had been initially charged down by Anna O’Flannagan. Soon after, Malou Pheninckx unleashed a rocket past McFerran at her near post which ended up in the top corner.
Despite the score, Ireland had been defending resolutely. As they had shown all tournament, they were prepared to dig deep and put their bodies on the line for the team. Ireland were without Megan Frazer who was ruled out of the game due to a hamstring injury. Nevertheless, Shirley McCay who had been a rock for Ireland in every game, was once again proving hard to get past. Katie Mullan, the Irish captain, never stopped running and continued to inspire those around her as she epitomized the Irish “never give up” attitude.
In the third-quarter, the Netherlands continued to press and added a fifth and sixth in quick succession. After a brilliant run from Welten, Keetels fired home for the Netherlands fifth before Van Maasakker struck an unstoppable penalty corner flick into the top corner.
Although the result may not be good viewing for an Irish supporter, the bigger picture suggests otherwise. No one could have imagined that this Irish side whom were ranked 16th in the world would get this far. The Irish team will be proud of a truly momentous campaign claiming a historic silver medal which will be the start of something more. Throughout the tournament, they embraced the occasion and clearly were having the time of their lives. They have created a genuine buzz around the nation that hasn’t been seen in a long time.
The Irish Women’s Hockey team have sparked debate amongst the Irish people regarding funding in sport. This team whom came up against full-time professionals made it all the way to the final. With more backing from the government, who have pledged to double the funding of sports from €110 million to €220 million, a new era of Irish sport may be on the horizon.
Chloe Watkins who made her 200th cap spoke brilliantly after the game.
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 5, 2018
What an achievement, what an adventure!