World League 2: Ireland beat Canada in shootout

Ireland trio Kathryn Mullan, Anna O'Flanagan and Emma Smyth celebrate beating Canada on penalties
Ireland trio Kathryn Mullan, Anna O'Flanagan and Emma Smyth celebrate beating Canada on penalties

Ireland's women clinched the World League 2 title thanks to a shoot-out victory over Canada after the decider finished 1-1 at Belfield on Sunday.

Nikki Evans put Ireland ahead early in the second half before Holly Stewart's equaliser for the Canadians.

Ireland won the shoot-out 4-3 with Aine Connery holding her nerve to net the winning penalty in Dublin.

The Irish had already secured their progress to the final phase of the Olympic qualifying process.

The 7-0 hammering of Belarus in Saturday's semi-final ensured a place in World League 3 in June, where Olympic places are decided.

Ireland burst out of the blocks in the final with Emma Smyth winning an early penalty corner that Katie Mullan squeezed through, only for Abigail Raye to scoop the ball off the line.

Evans was next to try her luck with a vicious high shot that Kaitlynn Williams, later named goalkeeper of the tournament, did well to palm away.

Kate Dillon volleyed another just past the post before Canada found their feet in the second quarter with Natalie Sourisseau at the heart of their good work.

Emma Gray needed to be alert to deny Alex Thicke from close range, ensuring the sides went into half-time scoreless.

Nikki Evans leaps in celebration after putting Ireland ahead in the Belfield decider
Nikki Evans leaps in celebration after putting Ireland ahead in the Belfield decider

Within 35 seconds of the restart, the deadlock was broken as Chloe Watkins, one of Ireland's key players on the day, jinked into the circle to win a corner.

Cliodhna Sargent's bash was saved by Williams but only as far as Evans, who snapped up the rebound with relish.

Canada levelled in the 37th minute with a smart move, finished with Stewart applying the right level of elevation to equalise.

Both sides had chances to win it and Gray saved from Brienne Stairs with her helmet, a fantastic stop at close quarters with two minutes left.

Teenager Ayeisha McFerran came into goals for the shoot-out and duly did enough to put off Stephanie Norlander in the first round.

Ireland converted their first three efforts, from Megan Frazer, Anna O'Flanagan and Smyth, but the tie was locked at 3-3 going into the final round after Mullan slipped her shot wide.

McFerran saved from Raye before Connery held her cool to slip home the winner as Belfield erupted.

"The girls were really excited for the final and, in the end, it was good spectacle," said Ireland coach Darren Smith.

"Canada did a good job but we got the result in the end. World League 2, from my perspective, was a great advertisement for hockey and a lot of fun."

Ireland: E Gray, C Sargent, E Smyth, N Evans, S McCay, M Frazer, N Daly, H Matthews, K Mullan, A O'Flanagan, G Pinder

Subs: N Carroll, A Connery, C Watkins, L Colvin, K Dillon, A Meeke, A McFerran

Canada: K Williams, K Gillis, D Hennig, T Culley, H Haughn, K Johansen, A Raye, N Sourisseau, S McManus, M Secco, B Stairs

Subs: H Stewart, A Woodcroft, S Johnston, S Norlander, A Thicke, R Beale, A Frisch

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