Ireland women hockey team’s incredible story: Part-timers, second-lowest ranked side to World Cup runners-uphttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/hockey/womens-hockey-world-cup-final-ireland-vs-netherlands-underdogs-5292608/

Ireland women hockey team’s incredible story: Part-timers, second-lowest ranked side to World Cup runners-up

Ireland's journey to the final, cited by many as one of the greatest underdog stories in sports, ended with a thrashing by overwhelming favourites Netherlands.

So low were Ireland’s chances at the tournament that the team had made hotel bookings only until the quarterfinals of the tournament. (Source: AP)

Ireland will face seven-time champions Netherlands in the final of the 2018 Women’s Hockey World Cup. This is the first time ever that an Irish team has reached the final of any hockey world cup and it was also the team’s first appearance in 16 years at the tournament. So low were their chances at the tournament that the team had made hotel bookings only until the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Ireland were ranked 16 at the start of the tournament. Never before have a team so lowly ranked made it to the final of a major hockey tournament, whether it be the Olympics, the World Cup, or the Euros for which Ireland are eligible. It was reported in the Irish Times that the players had to pay 550 Euros each for playing in the team.

The squad is made up largely of amateur players with the likes of Anna O’Flanagan, who scored for Ireland in the semi-final, Nikki Evans and Chloe Watkins all having to put their other full-time jobs on hold for playing in the tournament.

There was good reason for Ireland to not plan beyond the quarter-final stage; the team have ever reached a semi-final at the World Cup. But on August 3 they managed to book their place in the final four by beating India on shootouts. Another shootout came, this time against Spain and once again, Ireland came out on top. “I’ve been asking the Dutch for three years for a bloody game and they won’t bloody play us, so they don’t have a choice now,” Ireland coach Graham Shaw joked after the match.