Dayna Finn in action for Ireland against Estonia at Oblate Hall, Inchicore. Photo: Bille Daly

Ireland senior women hold nerve to claim series win over Estonia

The Ireland senior women's team battled back from a third quarter deficit to record a second win in two days over Estonia in the Gotham Drywall Series. It finished 65-61 at Oblate Hall in Inchicore this afternoon.

A game played in very hot conditions at a high tempo entertained a packed out gym. Ireland, featuring Mayo native Dayna Finn, had to recover from sluggish starts to both halves but were composed when it counted in the latter stages of both to pick up the win against a very combative and higher ranked Estonian team.

If Ireland started yesterday’s game like a freight train, that train was stuck in the station this afternoon. Estonia, to their credit, matched up much better with Ireland in the first quarter in Inchicore, restricting the hosts to just one made shot from play, an Enya Maguire three-pointer midway through the period. Edel Thornton and Bridget Herlihy kept the scoreboard ticking for the Irish at the free-throw line, but their performance lacked the vigour of 24 hours earlier.

With the words of head coach James Weldon no doubt ringing in their ears, Ireland found their range early in the second quarter and put on a clinic of scoring thereafter.

Defensively Ireland continued to have problems stopping Estonia from developing extended scoring runs but, crucially, they now were recording back-to-back baskets of their own with increasing frequency.

Finn and Edel Thornton began to dictate the tempo in a sweltering Oblate Hall, and at the break their team enjoyed a slim advantage, 35-33.

Incredibly, Ireland held the lead for just 84 seconds of the first half compared to almost 16 and a half minutes for Estonia.

The break arguably didn’t come at a good time for Ireland, who had all the momentum, and their sluggish opening to the game was replicated at the start of the third quarter. Ireland didn’t register their first basket for almost eight minutes, and Estonia were playing with a lot more discipline defensively.

As the clock wound down though there was a sense among the packed Irish supporters that momentum was shifting once more and from a difficult looking position, Ireland trailed by just two entering the final quarter.

They wrestled the lead back with an early spurt of scoring as head coach James Weldon looked to his senior players at crucial moments. Finn, Thornton, Rachel Huijsdens, Michelle Clarke and Bridget Herlihy soaked up most of the minutes in the fourth, while Aine O’Connor entered from the bench to make a crucial free-throw in the final three minutes.

As much as Estonia tried, they couldn’t break strong Irish resilience in the final moments and the home side secured a 2-0 series win over their 40th ranked opponents. The now move on to another friendly with Portugal next week in high spirits.

Ireland: Michelle Clarke (10), Dayna Finn, Rachel Huijsdens (11), Edel Thornton (9), Sarah Kenny, Mia Furlong, Aine O’Connor (1), Maeve Phelan, Ella O’Donnell, Bronagh Power-Cassidy (3), Enya Maguire (8), Bridget Herlihy (23).

Estonia: Maarja Grunmann (9), Victoria Ida Vahi, Sofia Kosareva (13), Anastasia Ptitsona, Helena Svilberg (4), Mailis Pokk (6), Maaja Bratka (9), Martha Liisa Oinits, Greeta Uprus (9), Anette Elisabeth Adler (2), Janne Pulk (8), Ellen Anett Poldmaa (1).