LONDON - The Irish women's fairytale run to the field hockey World Cup final ended Sunday in a 6-0 hammering by defending champions The Netherlands who claimed a record eighth title.
The Dutch were ruthless in their dismantling of the Irish defence -- which had been one of their strengths -- with six different players on the scoresheet. Lidewij Welten, Kelly Jonker, Kitty van Male, Malou Pheninckx, Marloes Keetels and Caia van Maasakker all scored for the Dutch, who extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 32 matches.
The top four goal scorers in the tournament all came from Australian legend Alyson Annan's squad, with van Male topping the order with eight. However, Ireland's mix of lawyers, doctors and some professional players -- all of whom have to pay an annual 550-euro charge to supplement their funding -- still emerged with great credit, beating India in the quarter-finals and then Spain in the semi-finals having begun the tournament ranked 15th of the 16 finalists. "Just proud. Well done @irishhockey ladies. Brilliant journey," tweeted Irish rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll. The Irish, transformed by coach Graham Shaw who assumed control just after their shattering defeat to China three years ago saw them miss out on qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games, took defeat in good heart.
"Well done to the world number 1's," tweeted Irish Hockey, whose women's team were appearing in their first World Cup finals in 16 years.
"We couldn't be prouder of the #greenarmy, making history and winning a World Cup silver medal!!!! Keep watching folks, we've got a medal presentation to attend."
The consolation for the Irish is that their ranking will improve considerably which could be crucial when it comes to the Olympic qualifiers for Tokyo 2020. The relative youth of their squad also bodes well with just two of the 18-strong squad older than 27.