Belfius EuroHockey Championships
Women’s Pool C: Belgium 1 (A Ballenghien) Ireland 2 (B Barr, A O’Flanagan)
Anna O’Flanagan grabbed a winning goal for Ireland with just over a minute to go to see the Green Army all but safe in the women’s EuroHockey Championships.
They led early on via Beth Barr’s second goal of the tournament before the Belgian hosts equalised in the second half. But Ireland kept fight and now move up to six points with Belgium on three and needing a result in their final match of the tournament on Sunday.
Belgium produced some stirring stuff in the first few minutes with Jill Boon whipping a backstick shot at goal while Alix Gerniers and Louise Versavel were causing danger. Shirley McCay was required to clear another out from the goalmouth before Ireland got their bearings on the counter.
Barr gave them the lead in the 11th minute from a clever corner move, Roisin Upton switching to the injector McCay whose cross was tipped in by Barr.
A trio of Irish corners were blocked – one of which was given as a stroke but then reduced to a corner by video – before Belgium came back into contention. Boon’s sharp pick-up and shot on the turn tested Ayeisha McFerran and the forward against found only the goalkeeper’s pads from a clever leading run and first time touch.
The second half continued in an open fashion with Ireland having three shots in succession before Boon renewed her rivalries with McFerran. Deirdre Duke was found brilliantly by Pinder but D’Hooghe saved well while an Anna O’Flanagan corner went over.
The equaliser came in the 43rd minute as Gerniers drove around the circle and in the right channel before crossing, finding Ballenghien for a simple finish, 1-1.
It left the game on a knife-edge going into the final quarter where the Belgian hosts made most of the play, especially when Nikki Evans was shown a yellow card.
Ireland survived that spell and duly found a winning goal with just over a minute remaining when Shirley McCay delivered a perfect cross from the left wing into the centre. Nicci Daly’s touch lifted into the path of O’Flanagan who touched in the winner.
“Sometimes you score and you don’t even remember how it happens. It just fell to me and I got a nice touch to it!” O’Flanagan said of the goal.
“We had a point to prove; we were really close to getting into a semi-final for the first time for Ireland. We missed so narrowly but now we want to get fifth in the tournament. When it went to 1-1, we had to dig deep and were resilient. We knew a chance would come and we had to take it.”
Umpires: C Druijts (NED), Y Makar (CRO)
Belgium – Ireland
11’ Beth Barr (PC) 0-1
44’ Ambre Ballenghien (FG) 1-1
59’ Anna O’Flanagan (FG) 1-2