Three University College Dublin (UCD) hockey players were involved in the historic drawn series between Ireland and Great Britain, which ended with a 1-1 draw on Tuesday afternoon. Michelle Carey, Hannah McLoughlin and Niamh Carey all took part in the series of three matches which included the country’s first ever victory over the defending Olympic champions.
Ireland 1-2 Great Britain
After 497 days without an international match on home soil, Ireland kicked off the series against Great Britain with a 2-1 loss on Saturday the 13th of March at Queen’s University, Belfast. Roisin Upton scored for the hosts early in the encounter, before UCD’s Carey and Sarah McAuley looked to dominate the first quarter for Ireland. McLoughlin and Carey were responsible for keeping GB off the scoreboard in the first half, blocking respective shots from GB’s Lily Owsley.
They were unable to maintain the lead, however, Great Britain tied things up through Giselle Ansley in the opening ten minutes of the second half. Despite the best efforts of the Irish squad, Sarah Robertson took the leaf for Great Britain, taking the lead in the series with a 2-1 victory for Great Britain.
Ireland 2-1 Great Britain
The second match of the three-match Softco series took place on Sunday 14th March, with Ireland earning their first ever victory over team Great Britain. Ireland threatened the GB goal in the first quarter, with bot sides getting off to a fast start in search of the opening goal. It was GB that took the lead this time, with Laura Unsworth capitalising off of a Sarah Evans pass to beat Ireland’s Ayeisha McFerran for the opener in the second quarter.
Chloe Watkins was awarded the equaliser in the second half after a reverse shot from a Lizzie Colvin assist found the back of the net. Upton was the hero of the day though, as she took the lead for the hosts in the final quarter, which proved to be a bridge too far for Britain, as Ireland took home their first victory over the defending gold medallists.
Ireland 1-1 Great Britain
The final match of the series took place on Tuesday the 16th of March, which was all set to be the decider of the all-square series. Despite both teams earning a number of opportunities in their respective opponents’ circles, the first half ended without either side scoring a goal. Ireland had a number of good scoring opportunities throughout the game, which continued into the start of the second half.
As tensions rose between the sides, scores remained all square until the final quarter, as Upton added her third goal of the season to take the lead well into the final quarter. Ireland looked to hold on to secure another historic victory over their rivals, however they were unable to keep Isabelle Petters from scoring in the final couple of minutes of the match. GB continued to press for the winner for the final few minutes, however McFerran and her teammates managed to keep them out to secure the draw, leaving the series level at a win apiece and a draw.
Speaking to Hockey Ireland after the match, top-scorer Upton said, “[the] immediate response is disappointment to the third game; the opportunity was there to win it by a couple. But in general, it’s been a fantastic four days, and we’ll take a lot of confidence into whatever comes next.
“We’ve been training hard over the last eight months after we came out of lockdown in September, so it’s been great to have these games to get tested against the best,” Upton said. “They’re the reigning Olympic Champions and we’ve got three fantastic games in the bag now that we can reflect on and look back on. There’ll be a lot of take away, it’s been a good four days.”
Stephen Kisbey-Green – Co-Editor