Posted: 5 days ago

Ireland defeated by Spain in FIH Nations Cup Final

Terrasa, Spain - FIH Women´s Hockey Nations Cup Spain 2023-24 Closing ceremony Picture: Runner’s-Up Team Ireland poses for a photograph © Worldsportpics/ Rodrigo Jaramillo

SPAIN 2 IRELAND 0

HEARTBREAK for Ireland as they were beaten in the FIH Nations Cup Final by the hosts Spain. While it was a better showing than their Pool A opening match where Ireland were on the wrong end of a 5-1 scoreline, Ireland were unable to create worthwhile scoring opportunities when they mattered most and ultimately came up short. Given the last time they played in a Nations Cup tournament they went out at the semi-final stage it does mark progress but that will take a while to sink in after the disappointment of this result wears off.

Spain took the lead through Patricia Alvarez in the 25th minute with a field goal. Lola Rieira converted a penalty corner in the 30th minute to send Spain in leading 2-0 at half-time. In the end, those two goals were enough for Spain to secure the Nations Cup and of course the only spot available in the FIH PRO LEAGUE for the 2024-25 season.

Blanca Perez had the first chance of the match which was blocked, and the first penalty corner of the match came in the 12th minute. Blanca Perez went on a run into Ireland’s semi-circle and passed to Belen Iglesias whose shot hit an Irish foot. Laura Barrios’s drag flick was saved by Liz Murphy and the follow up effort went wide. Belen Iglesias then got a green card for Spain but Ireland didn’t make their player advantage count. When her suspension was up Iglesias had a shot but Katie McKee blocked it and cleared it was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The decisive goals occurred in the second quarter. Liz Murphy denied Marta Segu and made another decent save, but it was not a surprise when Spain took the lead. Lala Vidosa sent a pass to Patricia Alvarez who sped down the right and fired in a shot that deflected into the goal off Liz Murphy’s pad, 1-0 to Spain.

The Irish then had a purple patch. Sarah Hawkshaw won a penalty corner in the 27th minute.  But the drag flick was blocked. Niamh Carey had a shot blocked by Clara Perez a minute later. Spain countered through Begonia Garcia who had a shot saved by Liz Murphy and won a penalty corner. And from that penalty corner Spain increased their lead in the final seconds of the first half when Lola Rieira converted the penalty corner to make it Spain 2 Ireland 0 at the break.

Spain started the third quarter looking more likely to grab a third goal than Ireland looked like getting back in the game. Blanca Perez cut into the Irish  semi-circle in the 33rd minute and passed to Patricia Alvarez whose first effort was blocked by Elena Neill and whose second was blocked by Sarah McAuley. In the 35th minute an attacking move from Katie McKee won a penalty corner in the Spanish semi-circle. Hannah McLoughlin’s drag flick missed the post and Caoimhe Perdue was unable to get on the end of it.

Niamh Carey and Naomi Carroll combined to cause a fe problems for Clara Perez and the onfield umpire initially awarded a penalty corner to Ireland in the 39th minute. Spain referred the matter to the video umpire for an alleged foul and the outcome was a free hit out to Spain, and they also kept their referral. Ireland finished the quarter inside the Spanish 23 metre line without creating a clear-cut shot on goal it was 2-0 at the end of the third quarter. Liz Murphy denied a number of Spanish players possible third goals including Patricia Alvarez and Marta Segu. Liz Murphy was withdrawn in favour of another attacker and Ireland had to defend a penalty corner from Spain minus a goalkeeper as a consequence. When the ball hit the net, it entered the goal too high and a free out to Ireland was the result.

In the 57th minute Ireland won a penalty corner for a foul on Katie Mullan. Charlotte Beggs broke from deep and found Niamh Carey whose precise pass found Mullan inside the Spanish semi-circle, but she was unceremoniously bundled off the ball. Spain tried to get the penalty corner overturned and referred it to the video umpire. Spain lost their referral. Hannah McLoughlin’s drag flick was saved by Perez and Naomi Carroll’s rebound went wide. Niamh Carey went on another attacking run into the semi-circle but lost control of the ball before she could shoot in the 58th minute. Spain closed out the game thereafter and won the Nations Cup by 2 goals to 0.

Spain’ s Lola Rieira was presented with the leading goal scorer of the tournament award. Patricia Alvarez was selected as Player of The Match in the Final.

Chile won the 3rd and 4th place final beating New Zealand 2-1 to secure the bronze medal.

Spanish captain  Xantall Gine was presented with the FIH Nations Cup which  carried with it that single precious place in the 2024-25 FIH Pro League.

Katie Mullan Ireland’s captain said after the match: “I’m incredibly proud of the Green Army, of the fight we put in, not just this week but over the past couple of months. It’s been an incredibly tough couple of months, both on and off the pitch. And what the girls have done, the resilience they’ve shown, is just an incredible story for sport really. I hope that we’ve inspired young people so that if they maybe don’t achieve their dream, that they get back up and go again. We’ll be back again!”.

Speaking after the game IRL Women’s Head Coach Facundo Quiroga said:

“It was definitely not the game that we wanted, I think in the end Spain were better, so congratulations to them, they deserve the gold medal.

At the end of the day, we talk about coming here to write our own story. It was a really tough way back after the Qualifiers [Olympic Qualifiers in January] and we needed to build a team, we needed to feel competitive again and the girls worked really, really hard over the last three months. Especially in this tournament, they showed how resilient they are. We didn’t start the tournament well and we came back immediately. 

I am really proud of what the girls have done so far, they are such an inspiration for a generation of young athletes in Ireland and what they have done for Irish sport, especially for women’s sport in Ireland, is so huge. The legacy of this team goes far beyond the silver medal we won. I’m really proud of them.”

SPAIN:- Clara Perez (GK); Laura Barrios; Sarah Barrios; Julia Strappato; Lucia Jiminez; Maria Lopez; Constanza Amundson; Blanca Perez; Xantal Gine (C); Alejandra Torres- Quevedo; Patricia AlvarezSUBS USED:– Belen Iglesias [5 mins]; Marta Segu [4 mins]; Lola Rieira [7 mins]; Begona Garcia [5 mins]; Beatriz Perez [5  mins]; Lala Vidosa [4 mins]

IRELAND:- Liz  Murphy (GK); Elena Neill; Sarah McAuley; Róisín Upton; Ellen Curran; Michelle Carey; Charlotte Beggs; Katie McKee; Sarah Torrans; Katie Mullan (C); Niamh Carey SUBS USED:- Sarah Hawkshaw  [4 mins]; Hannah McLoughlin [4 mins]; Naomi Carroll [ 4 mins];  Caoimhe Perdue [5 mins]; Christina Hamill [4 mins];  Síofra O’Brien [8 mins]