The Irish korfball team took part in the 2016 European qualifiers in St Etienne in France on Thursday until Sunday last week. Also competing in this pool to win a place in the 2016 European Championships were Catalonia, Turkey, Wales, France and Sweden.
The Irish team all met on Thursday afternoon in St Etienne for their first training session together. For some this was the first time players had actually met. A lot of new and young members joined the squad recently and over half of the team were making their debuts for Ireland in this international tournament. Despite the lack of International experience and lack of training as a squad, the team gelled together really well throughout the tournament.
On the first day Ireland faced Catalonia which we always knew would be a hard game. The score reflected this difficulty with the final score 18-4 to Catalonia. Later that afternoon Ireland played Wales. Everyone was pumped up for the game as the Ireland/Wales games in the past have always been very close and competitive. As expected, the match was very close throughout. Unfortunately, Ireland lost 11-12 to Wales.
On day 2 of the tournament Ireland played Turkey. They were a very tall athletic team, and we always knew it was going to be a hard game to win. We fought hard to the end and came back from a 6-2 deficit to then lead by 2 goals going in to the last 4 minutes. We were unable to hold on to the lead and the game went to golden goal, which resulted in us losing 9-10.
The next game on this day was against Sweden. We won comfortably 18-7. This was a great game which showed depth in the squad and competency as goals came from across the team with everyone scoring.
The final day Ireland played the home team of France. We always knew this was going to be a tough game with a stadium full of French supporters. For most of us this made us even more determined to win. Again we fought right to the end, never giving up and the game went to golden goal. This resulted in Ireland losing 10-11. Gutted wasn’t the word.
In the end Turkey went on to win the tournament, a team we lost to on golden goal. These near misses meant Ireland finished in fifth place and did not qualify for a place in the 2016 European Championships. Fortunately there will be another qualification round in 2017, for a chance to qualify for the 2018 European Championships.
As a squad we are more motivated than ever to train and improve our performance. Our next goal will be to qualify comfortably for the 2018 European Championships.