🏆 JWC 2021 : Ireland Junior Women’s Hockey team outbid Malaysia in the Classification round of the Junior Women’s World Cup
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Dragflick Newsdesk : Captain Caoimhe Perdue whipped home a brilliant penalty corner strike 46 seconds from time to ensure Ireland will finish in the top 10 at the women’s Junior World Cup in Potchefstroom.

She applied all the power for her second goal of the tournament as the Junior Green Army eventually broke through against a Malaysian opponent who made life very difficult in a bruising encounter.

Ireland had led early on when player of the match Yasmin Pratt raced clear to set up Rachel Kelly to slot a 14th minute goal.

But the Asian side rode their luck for long periods while their all-heart style led to numerous injuries and breaks in play which slowed the tempo of the contest. They got level in the fourth quarter via Nuramirah Zulkifli’s superb strike but Ireland kept piling forward and from a late trio of penalty corners, Perdue settled the contest.

Pratt summed up the jubilant post-match mood, saying:

“We are just over the moon. In the last five minutes, the intensity upped another level and we were really fighting for that win and when the goal went in, none of us could have been happier! So proud of my team.”

It puts Ireland through to a match against Austria on Monday with the winner finishing ninth overall, a strong comeback after Ireland missed out on the quarter-finals in frustrating fashion.

“Obviously, we believed in ourselves to get here but we have never been to a World Cup before so we didn’t know what to expect. We have really done ourselves proud. We definitely have that Irish spirit, a lot of passion and when it comes down to the nail-biting, hard wins, we really call on that passion.”

Coach David Passmore, meanwhile, added:

“We made hard work of it! We didn’t take our early chances. I thought we played quite well at the beginning of the second half and then just lost control, structure and made the wrong decisions.

“That happens and it is about riding that. Thankfully, after conceding that, we really showed the best of our game and were on the front foot, creating a lot of chances.”

Early on, other than a couple of Malaysian penalty corners, it was a tie Passmore’s side started in strong form with Christina Hamill’s 3D skills and ghosting runs causing havoc.

Sarah McAuley’s strike was awkwardly saved by Mashitah Ab before Kelly potted her second of the tournament in the 14th minute.

It was ably setup by Pratt’s searing pace – both players having learned their hockey at schools in Kilkenny, the asssiter at College, the scorer at Loreto – after Mikayla Power had poked the ball back into Irish possession.

With a little more composure it might have been two on a number of occasions in the second quarter while Ab almost contrived to let in a Power cross, sprawling to recover from her own error to brilliantly scoop the ball off the goal line.

Pratt deflected Katie-Jane Marshall’s slap into the circle onto the post as the Malaysian goal lived a charmed life while their low-down approach saw three Malaysian players ship knocks and depart injured in the third quarter alone.

It made for a stodgy phase with little momentum and Malaysia get their foothold in the tie. During this phase, a loose bouncing ball found Zulkifli in the circle unattended and she took her time before firing high into the net.

The Irish reaction was strong, making all the running for the last 13 minutes. Aoife Taaffe could not get enough on Kelly’s clever cross while Sophia Cole’s innovative reverse-stick shot was blocked.

But three more penalty corners came in the last 75 seconds, the third of which Perdue slammed in from the top of the D for a gleefully celebrated win.

Ireland complete their campaign on Monday (2.45pm, Irish time) against Austria with ninth place on offer for the winner.

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