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Northern Ireland
Hearn Fires Ferns Past Irish
by Jeremy Ruane
The Football Ferns ace markswoman, Amber Hearn, ensured Irish eyes wouldn't be smiling on the opening day of Cyprus Cup action on 28 February, as she struck twice in seven second half minutes to earn her team a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland at the Ayia Napa Municipal Stadium in Paralimni.

The mercurial number nine is just four goals away from drawing level with all-time-leading goalscorer Wendy Sharpe after her contest-deciding efforts, both of  which saw her turning the ball home on the far post.
The first, in the 53rd minute, owed much to the enterprise of Ali Riley, who rounded off a good move down the left by scything inside before delivering an angled low cross in behind the defence for Hearn to capitalise upon.
Seven minutes later, Kirsty Yallop's quality corner found its target, with Hearn rising high to head home her 25th goal for her country, and confirm a 2-0 victory which could have been far greater - Hannah Wilkinson hit the crossbar five minutes into the match, while Betsy Hassett was denied a goal by a handball offence on the line in the later stages of the contest.
Coach Tony Readings was encouraged by his team's display in a match which kicked off in far from ideal conditions. "They were testing, that's for sure. The ground here at Paralimni is very open to the elements, and today we had thunderstorms, gale-force winds ... I couldn't stand up throughout the first half, they were that strong!
"We played into the wind in the first half, and kept possession for the majority of it. Remarkably, when we came out for the second spell, the wind had completely died away - it was an amazing turnaround in playing conditions on a pitch which, despite the weather, and the preceding match, held up well".
It was in the second spell that the Football Ferns really put their foot down and bossed the game, the conditions allowing them to employ a much better brand of football than had been possible to produce in the first forty-five minutes.
"Northern Ireland struggled to gain a foothold, to be honest", says Readings. "We strung together lots of passes, many of which were penetrative, and dominated possession. We had plenty of chances to build on our lead, but we'll take a 2-0 win, particularly with everyone fit and well after the match, and in a good space heading into the clash with South Africa in two days' time".
Holly Patterson made her Football Ferns debut as a substitute ten minutes from time, while among the many to shine were Annalie Longo, Betsy Hassett and central defensive duo Rebecca Smith and Abby Erceg.
"'Flea' hasn't started for a while", says Readings, "but she looked very dangerous throughout the match, and linked well with Betsy, who livened the game up upon coming off the bench.
"Our central defenders were very positive today.
Because we had a lot of the ball, they didn't have a lot of defending to do. When in possession, they made very good use of it - their option-taking was very pleasing".

The Football Ferns take on South Africa in their second match at the Cyprus Cup from 4.30am on Friday, NZ time, at the same venue. The other Group C match at Paralimni saw Korea Republic score a 2-1 win over the South Africans, Noko Matlou scoring in stoppage time for the beaten team after Cha Yun-Hee and Yeo Min-Ji had struck earlier in the half.
Elsewhere at the Cyprus Cup, France and England won their opening group games in Nicosia. The French trounced Switzerland 3-0, with all the goals coming in the first half.
Marie-Laure Delie pounced on a defensive error after four minutes, while Gaetane Thiney rattled home a twenty-five yarder in the eighteenth minute. Sonia Bompastor potted a penalty eight minutes before half-time after Eugenie Le Sommer had been felled in the area.
Penalties were also the order of the day for England, as they came from behind to overcome Finland 3-1. Annika Kukkonen fired the Finns in front after seven minutes, but Kelly Smith levelled matters from the spot ten minutes before half-time, and struck again from twelve yards with two minutes left, Karen Carney having given England the lead five minutes into the second spell.
Over in Larnaca, Holland came from behind to down Italy 2-1, with Patrizia Panico giving the Italians the lead six minutes before half-time. The Dutch fought back well, with Manon Melis and Lieke Martens leading the celebrations in an eight-minute spell around the hour mark.
Reigning champions Canada began their pursuit of the silverware in emphatic fashion, hammering Scotland 5-1 after Jane Ross' thirteenth minute goal had equalised Kelly Parker's fifth minute opener for John Herdman's team.
Sophie Schmidt restored Canada's advantage nine minutes before half-time, and extended it six minutes after the break. Christine Sinclair made it 4-1 on the hour, while Melissa Tancredi wrapped up the scoring five minutes later.
Group A action on Friday morning sees England and Switzerland locking horns, while France and Finland do battle. Both those games take place in Larnaca, while in Nicosia, Canada and Italy clash on a day Holland and Scotland square up.
The opening round of Algarve Cup action takes place on Thursday morning, NZ time. In Group A, China and Sweden clash, as do Iceland and Germany, while in Group B, the USA and Denmark engage on a day Japan and Norway face off. And in Group C, host nation Portugal entertain Wales while Eire and Hungary lock horns.
Football Ferns:     Bindon; Riley (Patterson, 80), Smith (Hill, 85), Erceg, Green (Percival, 46); Longo, Hoyle, Yallop (Moorwood, 60); Hearn, Wilkinson (Hassett, 55), Gregorius (Kete, 75)

Cyprus Cup