Heartbreak for Canadian field hockey women in Olympic qualifier shootout loss

Canada's women's field hockey team huddles after their 5-1 loss to Argentina in the gold medal game at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru on August 9, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

DUBLIN — Canada suffered heartbreak in an Olympic women’s field hockey qualifier Sunday, losing 4-3 to Ireland in a penalty shootout with a berth in the 2020 Tokyo Games on the line.

Canada led 3-1 in the shootout, only to see Irish goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran shut them down.

The two-legged aggregate playoff Saturday and Sunday ended scoreless after regulation time at Energia Park, former home of the Leinster rugby team. Canada had two penalty corners in the final minute Sunday but was unable to get a shot through a sea of bodies.

The Irish women are ranked eighth in the world, compared to No. 15 for Canada.

The Canadian men, ranked 10th in the world, qualified for Tokyo in late October in a sudden-death shootout over No. 13 Ireland in West Vancouver.

Steph Norlander, Amanda Woodcroft and Sara McManus scored for Canada in Sunday’s shootout. Nicci Daly opened Ireland’s account.

McFerran stopped Brie Stairs at 3-1 to keep Irish hopes alive. Beth Barr scored to make it 3-2 and McFerran then denied Canada’s Shanlee Johnston. Ireland’s Choe Watkins scored to tie it up at 3-3 and send the shootout to sudden-death.

Roison Upton made it 4-3, knocking her shot in off the post. And Woodcroft couldn’t beat McFerran to keep Canada in the contest.

The Canadians sat out the last six Olympics, last competing in 1992 when they finished seventh in Barcelona.

The Irish are coached by former New Zealand assistant coach Sean Dancer, a former Australian under-21 player. He took over in April, inheriting a team that turned heads by finishing runner-up at the 2018 World Cup.

The Irish won both their quarterfinal and semifinal matches at the World Cup via penalty shootout

Having lost their Own The Podium funding, the Canadian women turned to family, friends and supporters to fund their Olympic qualifying journey.

On coach Giles Bonnet’s suggestion, the women moved to Belgium in September 2018 to join club teams. It gave them access to elite coaches and trainers while allowing the Amsterdam-based Bonnet to work with them regularly.

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