Photo – INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Dublin — Donnybrook stadium erupted when Ireland’s goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran made the final save but then was quickly silenced as Canada referred the play. Six thousand fans held their breath and then erupted again when the call was confirmed. Ireland advanced to 2020 Olympic Games with a dramatic sudden death shootout victory over Team Canada.
The two-game series played in front of back-to-back capacity crowds was a nail biter from wire to wire. Zero goals through eight quarters of play set up a thrilling shootout to cap off the Olympic Qualifier weekend.
Standout performances by Canada’s Amanda Woodcroft, Dani Hennig and Sara McManus kept the Irish out of the defensive end. Canada came away with most of the 50-50 balls especially in the defensive end while protecting their D. Attacking forays led by Brie Stairs, Hannah Haughn and Steph Norlander caused some havoc, and although both teams earned penalty corners, neither team was able to convert.
Early in tonight’s match, it just started to feel inevitable that this series was going to go the distance. After back and forth play all game, Canada earned two penalty corners in the dying seconds of the match but was unable to convert either and as if it was scripted, these two incredible teams lined up at centre for extra drama.
In the shootout, Canada came out firing with goals from Norlander, A. Woodcroft and a penalty stroke converted by McManus. Then the momentum started to shift towards Ireland. The Irish fought back with a pair of terrific saves by McFerran and two conversions. The heart wrenching final moments were tough to watch if you were a Canadian fan. Up 3-1 in the shootout and unable to close it out.
With the win, Team Ireland becomes the first Irish Women’s National hockey team to qualify for an Olympic Games.
Team Canada in Donnybrook Stadiumfor the 2019 FIH olympic Qualifiers. Photo/Yan Huckendubler