Carlow’s Ellie McLoughlin and Kilkenny’s Rachel Kelly helped Ireland maintain their status in the top tier of the European U21 Championships following a 2-1 victory over Wales in their final group game.
Only victory could save them in Ghent but it looked a forlorn hope with 10 minutes to go as Wales led 1-0 before Caoimhe Byrne and Ellen Reid struck to outdo Eve Bowen’s earlier effort.
The late turnaround saw the Junior Green Army finish in sixth place and sent Wales down along with Scotland.
Ireland held sway in the first half possession and chances stakes but were nervy in front of goal with efforts from Rachel Kelly and Leah O’Shea not fully threatening.
They also found penalty corners – a rich seam of goals this week – hard to come by with the Welsh earning the only set piece of the half.
See also: Carlow’s Ellie McLoughlin named vice-captain as Irish hockey team head to Ghent for EuroHockey U21 championship
As time wore on, counter-attacks were looking the more likely route to success and Wales took their big chance in the 45th minute, Bowen’s off-target shot making it in via a defensive stick.
It put Ireland in real jeopardy but their audacity paid off as they replaced goalkeeper McLoughlin for an extra outfielder.
Byrne levelled when Lucy Crowe picked out Mikayla Power in the circle from the left and her great turn and shot was finished off by Byrne.
Wales were under further pressure when Stephanie Beaumont was sin-binned and, with a two player overload, they went in front when Reid – back after an ankle injury – rebounded a penalty corner for 2-1.
They duly held on for the remaining eight minutes to record a vital result and A division hockey in 2024.