Ireland finished 5th in the Confederation de Europeene Volleyball (CEV) Small Countries Association Championships this weekend, their highest finish in 15 years.
The Girls in Green were handed a tough draw which seen competitive defeats v the heavily fancied Faroe Islands (25-17, 25-16, 25-22) and eventual runners up Scotland (25-16, 25-18, 25-23). Ireland finished with a strong 3nil victory against Greenland to take 5th place (25-15, 25-23, 25-19), in Luxembourg.
A nervy start, gave the Faroes a quick lead as Ireland handed to debuts to Fiona Lamont, Emily Frazell & Alex Graves (all UCD). Ireland fought back but the strong Faroese kept Galway VC’s Olivia Molloy at bay, despite some hard hitting. The second set went much the same as the first before Ireland built a 4-1 lead in the third and ultimately final set. Newly qualified Irish resident Graves attacking from the Wing with some fierce spikes. It looked at one stage like Ireland would take the game to a fourth but the technical skills of semi professional Islanders proved decisive. The main difference between the two teams being the Faroe Islands Number 12 Sofia Purkhus – who was playing her first tournament since giving birth only 6 months ago.
After a midnight arrival and early morning start Ireland took to the court against a well drilled and experienced Scotland. Carly Donaghy of Santry VC was given her first cap in the middle. The 2nd set also saw the introduction of 16 year old Siofra Lawlor who plays her club Volleyball in Luxembourg. Lawlor, who is also a talented Cricketer wasn’t overawed by the occasion and set her first point with confidence as wing Eimear O’Neill (Uni. Cork & Naas VC) impressed. It was game on the in third with Aoibheann Cassidy (Naas, Pictured) controlling the middle. Ireland took a 19-16 lead in the third as hopes were raised – however Scotland’s experience showed as the clawed back to win by 2.
That result meant a 5/6th placed playoff V Greenland, whilst the Faroes lost out to Luxembourg in 5 sets. Scotland beat Northern Ireland, (25-11, 25-17, 25-13) to set up a thrilling final against the hosts, with the Red Lionesses eventually winning 3-1.
The final match saw Regina Halpin take the bulk of the setting duties as Marie-Claire Sobogal raced to Cologne to catch a flight to a Beach Camp ahead of the Continental Cup in Bettystown next month (June 1 and 2). The Galway native setting up some lovely scores for Molloy and Frazell. In the end the Irish were too strong for Greenland and claimed victory when Lawlor nailed an ace with her first serve of the match (25-15, 25-23, 25-18).
Head Coach Fabio Tamborrini said, “I am really proud of the way the girls committed to this competition. We are in the process of putting in place strong structures to develop our programme. We have improved greatly since the last competition and have earnt more points in this competition in about 15 years. This experience for our young team will make us stronger for the next event in two years time.”
All attention is now focused on Beach Volleyball as the Continental Cup Squads will be announced next week.
Volleyball Ireland would like to thank the Small Countries Association, CEV and the Federation of Luxembourg for putting on a great event, as well as Main team sponsor - WED Consulting.
You can still support the team via the crowdfunding page; https://www.pledgesports.org/projects/volleyball-european-challenge/
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