Naomi Carroll’s 46th minute goal handed Ireland a huge win over Scotland at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam to set up a showdown on Wednesday with Spain where victory would guarantee a World Cup ticket.
It was a memorable moment for the Cratloe woman and former Harlequins player, after nearly two years out of the international game due to an ACL injury as she eventually made Ireland’s upperhand pay.
The action was a far cry from the opening group game against the world number ones the Netherlands, a tight physical contest between two closely matched sides.
The first half saw the Green Army make the most telling inroads but the crucial touch was just out of reach on a number of occasions.
Anna O’Flanagan was in the thick of things in the first minute from Naomi Carroll’s slip pass but Amy Gibson was out quickly to smother the chance.
Carroll’s tenacity was a feature of the first half in tandem with Sarah Hawkshaw, their runs testing the Scots frequently. Nikki Evans also denied an opening goal but she just could not get enough lift over Gibson when set through down the left.
It would have been the perfect way for Evans to celebrate her 200th cap, becoming just the sixth woman to do so after Nikki Symmons, Shirley McCay, Cliodhna Sargent, Chloe Watkins and Anna O’Flanagan.
Scotland were sitting deep and playing a longer game, requiring Hannah Matthews to be on hand to pick off important late tackles. McKenzie Bell did almost prosper on the counter but for Duke covering back to block the chance.
The second quarter followed a similar pattern with Hawkshaw racing down the right but her cross only got half a touch in front of goal; a Mullan cross took a Scottish stick and rolled wide. Ireland’s first penalty corner was won by Michelle Carey but no shot of note materialised.
The third quarter brought the first corner chances, Lena Tice and Róisín Upton combining to clear Scotland’s first-up effort from Emily Dark before Ireland could not make full use of the three that came their way.
From the fourth set piece – Hawkshaw again to the fore – the goal finally came as Naomi Carroll snapped up the chance at the second attempt. Upton’s drag was blocked by the first runner but her Catholic Institute club mate on hand to swipe home a vital goal from mid-circle.
Evans came within millimetres of doubling the lead from a Watkins crash ball, meaning a tense finale. But the single goal was enough as Ireland withstood a late onslaught, including a corner with 36 seconds to go, to get over three points on the board.
A McFerran, R Upton, N Evans, K Mullan, S McCay, L Tice, N Carroll, H McLoughlin, L Holden, S Hawkshaw, A O’Flanagan Subs: M Carey, M Frazer, C Watkins, N Daly, H Matthews, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, L Murphy.
A Gibson, J Eadie, L Swanson, B Ward, A Costello, S Robertson, C Watson, S Jamieson, E Dark, K Holmes, R Condie Subs: L Campbell, M Bell, B Shields, R Collins, F Burnet, F Semple, N Cochrane.
S Bockelmann (GER), I Makar (CRO)