Ireland’s dream of a Junior World Cup quarter-final berth came to an end as a Jean-Leigh du Toit goal saw hosts South Africa edge them out 1-0 in Potchefstroom.
After Saturday’s 2-1 loss to England, for a second successive game, it was the penalty corner realm where the game was won and lost as coach David Passmore was left to rue “what happened in the circles” as his side put in a huge shift but could not take the big chances.
“I can’t fault the girls for their attitude and their application but we have to improve the delivery and accuracy of our penalty corners,” Passmore said.
“It’s about now getting above our world ranking of 12th; we’ve got the possibility of finishing ninth and if we can get three wins now, it will be a good World Cup for us. We are disappointed to lose; we thought we could get out of this group and I think we have played well enough - I don’t think we were third best in this group but hockey is about what you do in the circles.” It was a tense affair in the first quarter with no chances accruing for either side. Mikayla Power and Nadia Benallal’s driving runs caused moments of danger but the South African defence held up well while Sarah McAuley was a big presence for Ireland.
The contest caught fire in the second period with the Junior Green Army nicking the first of three penalty corners in this phase while Siofra Murdoch’s reverse stretched Mishka Ellis to the limit. Sarah McAuley’s sweep at goal was well-taken off the line from Hanrie Louw at the left post.
But South Africa had the bigger openings. Du Toit served notice of her threat when her first corner shot went off Holly Micklem’s in-step and hit the inside of the post.
Bianca Wood miscontrolled from a golden chance at the end of a pitch-length counter but the relief was short as du Toit gave the hosts the lead with 20 seconds on the clock before half-time.
This one looked to be guided to a slider on the right post but a heavy defensive touch saw the Irish wrong-footed as the ball rattled into the backboard.
David Passmore’s side upped the ante in the second half with Yasmin Pratt going close on two occasions, one a venomous volley that goalkeeper Ellis brilliantly blocked at point-blank range.
South Africa, meanwhile, were running up a heavy penalty corner count - they ended with 10 in total - which required plenty of last-ditch defensive work. Ellie McLoughlin came off the bench to bat away a few of them with Lisa Mulcahy brilliantly deflecting Kayla de Waal’s flick at goal over the bar.
UCC's Caoimhe Perdue was inches from an equaliser from Ireland’s fifth corner five minutes from the end; Christina Hamill’s trickery almost unlocked the door while Aoife Taaffe drew another double-stop from Ellis in a late volley of chances but South Africa held on to leave Ireland on the outside of the quarter-final spots.
They will now contest the ninth to 15th place playoffs which get underway on Thursday with opponents to be confirmed later today.
H Micklem, E Paul, E Reid, N Benallal, M Power, C Perdue, A Horan, Y Pratt, C Hamill, S McAuley, K-J Marshall Subs: A Taaffe, S O’Brien, S Murdoch, A Elliott, L Mulchay, E McLoughlin, S Cole.
M Ellis, M Ramasimong, K de Waal, H Louw, T Kock, B Wood, E Molikoe, C Ferreira, O Zulu, S Laubscher, J-L du Toit Subs: A Welham, M Le Roux, J McLaren, J Thomas, C Den Bakker, C Maree, A Claasen.