|2018 Hockey Women’s World Cup|
|Venue: Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London Dates: 21 July-5 August|
|Coverage: Commentary on Ireland & England games on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and online; score updates on BBC Sport website|
Netherlands were crowned Women’s Hockey World Cup winners for a record eighth time as a crushing 6-0 victory ended Ireland’s fairytale tournament.
Four goals in a seven-minute spell around the half-time break earned the Dutch an emphatic victory.
Ireland had won new fans on their unlikely road to the final, but had no answer to their opponents’ intensity.
Their reward for reaching the final is an expected climb into the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time.
Lidewij Welten, Kelly Jonker, Kitty van Male, Malou Pheninckx, Marloes Keetels and Caia van Maasakker scored for the Netherlands, who extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 32 matches.
Van Male finished as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.
Playing without fear
The only other World Cup meeting between these two teams took place in the group stages of the 2002 tournament, when the Dutch also ran out 6-0 winners.
Ireland coach Graham Shaw said after the semi-final win against Spain that he had unsuccessfully attempted to set up a match against the reigning World League champions on several occasions in an effort to test his team against the best in the world.
Ireland midfielder Chloe Watkins had promised her team would continue to “play without fear” as they had throughout the tournament, and they began brightly in front of a largely green-clad crowd in London.
But Shaw’s side found the relentless pressing of the European champions too difficult to withstand as they fell behind after just seven minutes.
The impressive Welten picked up the ball inside a crowded circle and cleverly rolled her marker before unleashing a powerful reverse shot that flew past goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran.
Dutch press home advantage
Trailing in the biggest match of their careers, Ireland’s players remained composed in the face of the relentless Dutch press.
The holders’ first penalty corner finished in a powerful shot from Lauren Stam, before Ireland’s Shirley McCay produced a brave a diving block as the Green Army only trailed by a goal after the opening quarter.
Netherlands doubled their advantage in the 19th minute after McFerran made a superb kick save but Jonker pounced on the rebound to score.
Roisin Upton made a brilliant goalline clearance to keep Irish hopes alive but the Dutch found an extra gear as half-time loomed with Van Male and Pheninckx scoring within a two-minute spell to push their team four goals clear.
The goals continued to flow at the start of the third period as Keetels prodded home from close range after a good run by player of the tournament Welten.
The final goal came in the 34th minute when van Maasakker’s superb flick from yet another penalty corner flew past McFerran and in off the post.
What they said
Ireland head coach Graham Shaw: “A big learning curve today and maybe a step too far against an out-standing side but we can be so proud to stand here and say we came second in the world and when the girls reflect back they will look on an astonishing, remarkable achievement.”
“Hopefully we can improve on this and we’ve got a big future ahead of us in our sport – both men and women – because there is a lot of talent in Ireland.”
“I hope we get the recognition it deserves and the girls are rewarded for a world silver medal.
“We talk about performance and we talk about trying to reach goals and they’ve absolutely smashed them out of the park. I think they deserve to be rewarded now and hopefully we can have some conversations and bring the sport to a new level.”
Sally Walton, London 2012 bronze medallist on BBC Radio 5 live
“It isn’t that Ireland played badly it is that the well-oiled machine that are the Dutch just absolutely steamrollered them.
“A little bit of fatigue potentially, but that’s going to affect both teams. Take nothing away from the Dutch, they have played sublimely in this final.
“The girls are obviously going to be disappointed for Ireland, they play the sport because they love it and because they want to win, but when the disappointment of just this result goes out of the way they’ll realise that they’re champions no matter what.”
Nigel Ringland, BBC Sport NI at Lee Valley
It went the way a lot of us might have feared it would before the game started. But you can’t take anything away from what Ireland have achieved over the past two and a half weeks.
On Monday morning they will wake up, the new world rankings are going to come out and Ireland will be in the top 10 – that is a major achievement and it has repercussions for their Olympic qualification next year, hopefully heading to Tokyo in 2020.
They’ve done the country proud, they’ve done each other proud, their family and friends and most of all the sport of hockey, which hopefully will get a massive boost in Ireland from what these girls have done over the past number of weeks.