Bethany Barr couldn’t wished for a better birthday present as Ireland’s women cruised into the semi-finals of the FIH Hockey series with a ruthlessly efficient display in hammering Singapore 11-0 at Havelock Park on Tuesday.
Ireland will now face either Scotland or a rematch with the Czech Republic in the semi-finals on Saturday when a win will secure them a place in the last stage of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.
Barr, who turned 24 on the day of the game, was pleased with the performance as she made only her 11th appearance in the green shirt – 270 fewer than Shirley McCay, who became Ireland’s most capped player when she started the game.
One of seven Ulster players in the squad, Barr said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday celebration and I’m excited to have it with the girls.”
“It will be a bit different from the usual though because I usually celebrate it with my twin sister Serena so I will miss her but it was brilliant to get the victory.”
Ireland totally outclassed Singapore throughout the 60 minutes although former Lurgan defender Barr saw room for improvement after they failed to score in the third quarter of the game.
She added: “I think it was good performance but we dipped a bit and then came out and scored a few more goals so overall we’re very happy to be top of the group.”
“Recovery is key so we’ll do that tomorrow and then get back into training for the semi-final, study the opposition, see what they’re good at and what their threats are.”
Interim head coach Gareth Grundie also knows whoever Ireland face on Saturday will be a step up in class from the hapless Asians. The former Ards boss said: “The girls did well and they went out with a bit of energy and played a team game rather than an individual game.”
“So there is not too much to complain about and we had a little bit of success but there are still things we want to improve on.”
“Maybe being hypercritical, I thought we didn’t match the intensity we’d shown against the Czechs but it’s job done so we move on to the weekend.”
Ireland were in total control for most of the game bar a scoreless third quarter as they hit seven goals in the first half and four in the final 15 minutes. After sending an earlier penalty corner over the bar, Roisin Upton’s second effort was saved but Megan Frazer was on hand to volley in the rebound in the seventh minute.
Two minutes later, Mullan doubled the lead with a deft deflection after Anna O’Flanagan had delivered a teasing cross from the right. Gillian Pinder added number three in the 11th minute with a clinical backhand shot after the Singapore defence had failed to clear its lines.
Upton hammered in a set-piece to make it 4-0 seven minutes later and, at that point, it was a matter of how many Ireland would score. Lena Tice added a fifth from Ireland’s next award within 60 seconds with another direct shot as the floodgates began to open.
Sarah Hawshaw made it six shortly afterwards when she got a touch to a left wing cross from Shirley McCay, who was winning a record 281st cap. Upton added her second with a carbon copy of her first with five minutes left in the first half.
Ireland continued to be in total control after the break carving out several chances without being able to convert although Nicci Daly hit the post in the 41st minute after receiving a pass from Barr.
To be fair to Singapore, they defended better from a low base point and, clearly intent on damage limitation, frequently pulled 11 women behind the ball. After a scoreless third quarter, in which Ireland failed to force a penalty corner, they scored from their next set-piece in the 48th minute, Hannah Matthews on target at the far post from a switch after pushing the ball out.
O’Flanagan made it 9-0 with under five minutes remaining from another set-piece, diverting McCay’s slap home with a finish reminiscent of her two World Cup goals. Mullan brought up double figures a minute later with arguably the best goal of the day, slamming home an Upton pass from the edge of the circle.
There was still time for number 11 as Zoe Wilson stole possession from a defender and slipped the ball home with the last play of a totally one-sided game.