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Ireland beaten by Spain in Nations Cup opener

Naomi Carroll celebrates scoring for Ireland in the Nations Cup defeat
Naomi Carroll celebrates scoring for Ireland in the Nations Cup defeat [Ireland Hockey]

Ireland were beaten 5-1 by Spain in their opening game of the FIH Nations Cup in Terrassa.

After taking the lead through Naomi Carroll, the Irish were undone by some superb Spanish finishing as Lola Riera and Marta Segu scored twice and Belen Iglesias also found the back of the net.

It was a return to action for Ireland since missing out on Olympics qualification in January as Facundo Quiroda took interim charge of the side for the first time in place of the departed Sean Dancer.

The Nations Cup is played between the top eight ranked sides in the world not in the Pro League with the winners gaining promotion to world hockey’s elite competition.

When these two nations last met there was a place in the Olympics at stake and on that day, Ireland dominated but couldn’t score and Spain claimed their place in Paris after a shootout.

On this occasion, both sides scored before the end of the first quarter.

Ireland deservedly took the lead in the 12th minute. A nice interchange between the Carey sisters, Niamh and Michelle, saw the latter get a shot away that was saved by Clara Perez.

Carroll followed up and showed all her camogie skills to control the ball and score, but they couldn’t hold on to the lead until the end of the quarter.

From a penalty corner, goalkeeper Elizabeth Murphy kept the ball out of the net with a back stick and Riera stepped up to convert the resulting penalty stroke.

The same player made no mistake from a corner in the second quarter to give the Spanish the lead.

Ruthless Spain punish Irish mistakes

The game was taken away from Ireland in a 30-second spell in the third quarter.

Carroll had the chance to equalise, but Perez blocked the shot and the follow-up from Katie McKee.

From a sideline ball, a loose pass from Sarah McAuley failed to find Roisin Upton and Marta Segu won the footrace with Murphy, took the ball around the goalkeeper and slotted it home to make it 3-1.

Ireland were on their heels and minutes later a long ball into the circle wasn’t dealt with by the defence or Murphy and the unmarked Iglesias had an easy finish.

The fifth goal came in the final quarter with Segu left unmarked near the penalty spot and she fired a low shot into the corner of the Irish net.

Ireland will need a win against Italy in their next game on Tuesday. They lost their opening game, 2-1, against Korea who the Irish will face on Thursday.