Ireland seal place in Olympic qualifiers after holding Italy to draw in EuroHockey clash

Captain Katie Mullan praises the young side’s ‘hunger and desire’ after equalling their best ever EuroHockey finish

Katie Mullan, Ireland women’s captain, hailed the “hunger and desire” of her team as the Green Army equalled their best ever EuroHockey finish and sealed a place in January’s Olympic qualifiers.

A superb deflected goal from Naomi Carroll saw Ireland draw their last match 1-1 against Italy, which also secured their EuroHockey top-flight status in 2025.

Mullan said: “It’s strange to finish equal high than we have done before and feel disappointed. We almost needed a fifth and sixth quarter in that game and we had the best chances to win the game.

“I suppose for us finishing fifth is the highest an Irish team has ever done. That’s something to do with this young group, which had a lot less experience than the last time we came fifth. That shows the hunger and the desire of these players.”

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Italy’s opener came from their first penalty corner five minutes into the third quarter when Sofia Laurito connected with an unstoppable deflection past Lizzie Murphy, who had replaced Ayeisha McFerran in goal for the second half for the fifth game in a row.

With Ireland finishing the stronger, Caitlin Sherin collected an attacking aerial with 12 minutes remaining. Her quick pass found Carroll, whose stick deflection proved too much for Italy’s goalkeeper.

World number 13 Ireland were competing against five nations in the world’s top eight here. This result means that Ireland will now play in the FIH Olympic qualifying competitions in either Spain or China.

Mullan (29) added: “We know it’s a challenge for us not being in the Pro League and getting that quality competition.

“But it’s all building with this fantastic group of players and there is some great talent in there.”

The hope for Irish fans is that both men’s and women’s teams will find themselves playing in Valencia. The Irish men’s team could also travel to Pakistan, but recent unrest in Lahore has left the International Hockey Federation (FIH) monitoring the situation.

The FIH said last week that there were “two or three” nations who could stage the qualifier as a back-up plan.

Ireland women will now look to secure some Test matches in December before the qualifiers.

Before then, Mullan will also be one of a trio of Green Army players who will play in Australia’s Hockey One league this winter. “We’ve played the last couple of years in our national league and so this will be exciting,” she said.

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