Ireland Hockey: Ireland miss out on Pro League as Spain win Nations Cup Final

Image source, Irish hockey

Comment on the photo, Irishman Roisin Upton in the match against Spain in the final of the African Cup of Nations

  • author, Nigel Ringland
  • Role, BBC Sport NI, senior journalist

Ireland missed out on promotion to the FIH Pro League after losing the Nations Cup final to Spain in Terrassa.

Goals from Patricia Alvarez and Lola Riera in the second quarter were enough to give the home team a 2-0 win in the final.

Ireland played some attractive hockey throughout the tournament beating two teams ranked higher than them in the world – South Korea and New Zealand – but again lacked edge in front of goal when it mattered most.

The story was similar in the Olympic qualifiers in January, when they missed the opportunity to qualify for the Paris Olympics after a goalless draw with Spain, which led to a loss on penalties.

“It was definitely not the game we wanted. I think Spain was better in the end, so congratulations to them, they deserve the gold medal,” Irish interim coach Facundo Queiroda said.

It was a very difficult journey back from the qualifiers and we needed to build the team. We needed to feel competitive again and the girls have worked hard over the last three months especially in this tournament.

“Today we put up a fight and I’m really proud of what the guys did. They are an inspiration to a whole generation of young athletes in Ireland, so the legacy of this team goes far beyond the silver medal.

Ireland unable to respond after Spain’s goals

The two teams struggled to find their attacking style in the first quarter, which ended in a goalless draw.

It was the Spaniard who began to build momentum when Ireland goalkeeper Lizzie Murphy saved Laura Barrios’ penalty.

The hosts continued their dominance in the second quarter and scored two goals.

After Murphy twice denied Marta Sego, she was beaten with a shot that she would have been disappointed not to save. Out of nowhere, a reverse attempt from a tight angle was launched by Alvarez from inside her board and into the net.

Ireland responded well to falling behind. They had plenty of possession before the Spanish goal but failed to create any notable chances.

That changed when Niamh Carey pounced on a loose ball, but her shot into the Spanish goal was blocked by Clara Perez.

The decisive second goal came in the last minute of the first half.

Lola Riera’s shot from a corner kick found the backboard and Spain got within two goals before half-time.

Comment on the photo, Facundo Quiroga has been in interim charge of the Ireland women’s national team since Sean Dancer stepped down.

The defense of Spain’s two-goal lead was difficult to break down and Ireland struggled to get many significant entries into the circle.

However, great individual skill from Katie McKee alone led to a corner kick and McLoughlin went close from Caoimhe Perdew’s deflected pass.

Ireland’s last chance fell to Roisin Upton in the final quarter as Perez cleared it.

The Irish will now have to regroup after this latest decline.

They came very close to qualifying for the Olympics and the Pro League but suffered major disappointment in both endeavors this year.

A decision must be made on Facundo Quiroda’s future. He has been looking after the team on an interim basis since the departure of Sean Dancer.

With no tournaments until the Euro Hockey Championship and World Cup qualifiers in 2025, there could be one or two more international retirements as well.

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