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Ireland miss out on Pro League after Spain defeat

Ireland’s Roisin Upton in action against Spain in the Nations Cup Final

Ireland missed out on promotion to the FIH Pro League after losing the Nations Cup Final to Spain in Terrassa.

Second-quarter goals from Patricia Alvarez and Lola Riera were enough to give the hosts a 2-0 win in the final.

Ireland played some attractive hockey throughout the tournament and beat two countries ranked higher than them in the world - South Korea and New Zealand - but once again lacked a ruthless edge in front of goal when it mattered the most.

It was a similar story at the Olympic qualifiers in January when they missed out on qualification for the Paris Games after a goalless draw with Spain that resulted in a shootout loss.

”It was definitely not the game that we that we wanted. I think at the end Spain was better so congratulations to them, they deserve the gold medal,” said Irish interim coach Facundo Quiroda.

“It was a really tough way back after the qualifiers and we needed to build the team. We needed to to feel competitive again and the girls worked really really hard over the last three months and especially in this tournament.

“Today we put up a fight and I'm really proud of what the guys have done. They are such an inspiration for a whole generation of young athletes in Ireland so the legacy of this team goes far beyond the silver medal.”

Ireland unable to fight back after Spain goals

Both sides struggled to find their attacking game in a scoreless first quarter.

It was the Spanish who began to build momentum when a Laura Barrios penalty corner was well saved by Irish goalkeeper Lizzie Murphy.

The home side continued to dominate in the second quarter and were rewarded with a pair of goals.

After Murphy denied Marta Segu twice, she was beaten with a shot she will have been disappointed not to save. Out of nothing a reverse stick effort from a tight angle by Alvarez went off the inside of her pad and into the net.

Ireland responded well to going behind. They had plenty of possession leading up to the Spanish goal but had failed to create any chances of note.

That changed when a Niamh Carey pounced on a loose ball, only to see her shot turned aside by Clara Perez in the Spanish goal.

The crucial second goal came in the last minute of the first half.

Lola Riera’s shot from a penalty corner found the back board and Spain had a two-goal cushion heading to the break.

Defending a two-goal lead Spain were tough to break down and Ireland struggled to gain many meaningful circle entries.

However superb individual skill from Katie McKee alone the goal line forced a penalty corner and McLoughlin came close to picking out Caoimhe Perdue for the deflection.

Ireland’s last opportunity fell to Roisin Upton in the final quarter as her drag flick was pushed away by Perez.

The Irish will now have to regroup following this latest reverse.

They’ve come so close to qualifying for the Olympics and the Pro League only to suffer huge disappointment in both quests this year.

A decision on Facundo Quiroda’s future will have to be taken. He has been looking after the squad on an interim basis since Sean Dancer’s departure.

With no tournaments until the EuroHockey Championships and World Cup qualifiers in 2025 there may well be one or two more international retirements as well.