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Ireland women make strides despite EuroHockey 2019 Pool exit

Ireland will look for riposte on next Euro stages PIC WORLDSPORTPICS

Gillian Pinder believes that Ireland women are making strides once more on the world scene – despite a narrow failure to reach the EuroHockey Championship semi-finals.

Pia Maerten’s eighth-minute opener was cancelled out by Sarah Hawkshaw’s strike at the end of the first quarter in an entertaining, energy-sapping clash here.

Ireland’s dream to reach a first Euro last four was kept alive by a disallowed goal and Ayeisha McFerran’s reactionary glove save from a penalty stroke.

Yet Ireland couldn’t find the all-important winner as Nicci Daly was denied three times by Julia Sonntag, Germany’s stand out goalkeeper.

Anna O’Flanagan’s lifted shot then hit Sonntag’s helmet at the death after a wonderful move into the circle.

However, this result did usher in a best set of results at European level against their three Pool opposition.

Pinder said: ‘We fought back so well when they went a goal ahead of us.

‘When Ayeisha made that super save off the penalty flick, I thought it might our day. We had chances against a side of that quality that we had to take.

‘We are still making huge strides forward from the last Europeans two years ago. We are so much closer and teams really have to take us seriously.’

Ireland’s draw also confirmed their participation in the Olympic qualifiers in late October, where the men will also contest the lottery of the two-legged play-off matches.

For now, the women will aim to stave off Euro relegation over the next two matches.

Coach Sean Dancer said: ‘From an attacking point of view, they just need to back themselves – I want them to start thinking ‘I’m gonna score’. Some of them think about passing before shooting.’

The experienced Shirley McCay added: ‘There’s been a real change in our attitude and expectations. With that, it brings extra pressure but it’s something we want to thrive on. It’s disappointing to get four points from a really tough group and not get through.’

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