Pride in heritage drives Ireland to first ever WKC
Ireland is one of four teams appearing in the IKF World Korfball Championship for the first time.
Finishing tenth at the IKF European Korfball Championship 2018 put Ireland on the plane to South Africa. However, even making it to the final round of the IKF EKC 2018, in Friesland, was a bonus after Ireland finished third at the IKF EKC Round One in Hungary in October 2017, which looked like the end of the road, as vice-captain Sarah Halpin explains.
“We weren’t even meant to be in the competition, though Russia dropped out at the last minute, so we were invited in as first reserve. We had little time to prepare and the squad had changed over the years, so for many of us competing at this level was new: we had five players making their international debut in Friesland.
“Knowing the teams that were there, we thought we could do better than expected, and qualifying for the WKC was always the goal,” she says.
Losing their EKC pool games against France then Slovakia made the task that much more difficult for Ireland, especially as the match against France was lost by golden goal. However, a crucial cross-over match against neighbours, friends and close rivals Scotland resulted in a close and morale boosting win for Ireland, which set up a re-match against Slovakia.
Sarah reckons the loss in the pool game a few days earlier added even more tension.
“We went goal for goal for most of the match and were one down at half time. We only really pulled away in the last quarter, going three goals up with three minutes to go, to win 13-9. It was a very tight game with every player fighting for every ball. We knew we had to stay focused until the end or we would lose; Slovakia is too good a team to let them have any chances.
“Ireland has a history of losing games either in the last few minutes or on golden goal, which has lost us qualification before. None of us could believe what was happening until the final whistle. Then came the elation. And the tears,” she says.
On the final day the play-off for ninth place, ended in a comfortable win for Poland, though with both teams already assured of qualification, that was of little consequence for Ireland.
“Even though we felt we deserved to be there, to have even played in the EKC after initially missing out on qualification was just the best feeling. To actually make it to the WKC was amazing, and testament to the hard work of the players and coaching staff over the years,” says Sarah.
After hard work earned the journey to Durban, that journey has become part of Ireland’s fitness and fundraising efforts.
“Our squad ran, cycled and swam the distance from Dublin to Durban over six weeks. That’s 9,930 kilometres, which is 620 kilometres each. It has definitely kept our fitness levels up and has been a good fun competition within the squad,” says Sarah.
Although korfball is not played in Ireland, that is the ultimate dream for the players who wear the country’s colours.
“Almost all of us live in the United Kingdom and play for teams that compete in England’s national league. We are spread out across the UK and train in various locations.
“We hope the WKC will be a good opportunity to kick-start korfball in Ireland.
“Although we have received numerous enquiries from potential players in Ireland, we do not have the necessary funding to set-up regular korfball in the country, so as yet have been unable to develop the sport there any further. Our players entirely fund themselves, and any development in Ireland would also have to be paid for by the players. For now, in the squad we are hugely proud of our Irish heritage, which allows us to represent the nation from abroad,” says Sarah.
Look out for that pride when the Irish national anthem plays ahead of the WKC’s first match on 1 August, before Ireland meets world number two Chinese Taipei.
#TeamIRL IKF WKC 2019
1: Stewart McConvery
2: Charley Lewis
3: Lizzie Tighe
4: Jess Black
5: Emma Denton
6: Konstandinos Tritsarolis
8: Ashley Yates
9: Shay Conroy
10: James Norman-Carter
11: Sarah Halpin
12: Niall Sheekey
15: Nora Goodridge
16: Abby Golding
17: Hannah Goodridge
23: Terry Forde
31: Sam Galvin
Head Coach: Kees Verhoeven
Coach: Terry Forde
Manager: Nora Goodridge