John Jermyn’s double completed a fairytale ending to an incredibly successful international summer which yielded three trophies as Ireland came from behind to beat Russia and take the EuroHockey Nation’s Trophy title in Wrexham.
No doubt this was the biggest of the three titles – the others being the Glyndwr and Celtic Cups – and went some way to ease the pain of a last-gasp defeat in the Champion’s Challenge II final to Poland last month.
They did it the hard way, falling behind early on but from that point on, Ireland were the dominant force and produced some of their best hockey since Paul Revington took over in January.
Pre-match, a notable change in the Irish psyche took place during the anthems. A more steely resolve was evident rather than the puffed out chests of Thursday’s semi-final win over Wales.
It’s relevance was not immediately apparent as the sides played out the most subdued seven minutes of hockey of the tournament.
The eighth minute, though, produced Russia’s goal as skipper Alexandre Plantonov waltzed through unchallenged to fire in a reverse-stick effort from a narrow angle.
Ireland’s response, however, was wonderfully composed. Initially, a half-court press drew a series of good chances; Stephen Butler and Timmy Cockram’s two-on-two was snuffed out while Mitch Darling skimmed a post and Geoff McCabe hit the side-netting in a flurry of attacks.
Alan Sothern went even closer with his connection to Eugene Magee’s flashing reverse-stick cross but Roman Rogov picked off an incredible save inches from the goal line.
Half-court turned more aggressive and Ireland camped in Russian territory. Four penalty corner chances went unrewarded.
The fifth, however, saw Jermyn return to scoring form with a bullet to the bottom right corner two minutes before the break.
David Hobbs thought he had the Irish in front 15 minutes into the second period. One of the official nominees for player of the tournament – Alexander Korolev picked up the overall title – Hobbs flew down the left-wing, dinked over Rogov. The ball was redirected in off Dimitry Volkov’s shoulder but was deemed dangerous.
Alexander Cherenekov was sin-binned in the aftermath of that incident for an unceremonious hack and Ireland took full advantage.
Using the extra space, Russia were carved open when Eugene Magee rolled under his arm to skipper Ronan Gormley. His pin-point cross found Jermyn unmarked to pull the ball out of his legs and duly slammed home from the circle’s edge for the go-ahead goal.
Jermyn smacked the post moments later – what would have been his 50th international goal had it gone in – while Sothern also had a reverse brilliantly denied by Rogov once again.
Slender leads inevitably lead to nervy moments a plenty, though, especially when Jermyn was sin-binned for an off-the-ball incident with Cherenekov with Ilya Larikova waded in to also receive his marching orders.
And when Cockram was adjudged to have used a foot rather than his glove to concede a corner with three minutes to go, Ireland were almost made to pay for their profligacy.
Harte saved brilliantly from Alexey Sergeev – the tournament’s top marksman prior to the final enduring his quietest game of the competition – and Magee charged down a follow-up corner to start the celebrations.
Ireland: D Harte, R Gormley (capt), J Jackson, S Butler, J Brennan, J Jermyn, E Magee, G Shaw, T Cockram, A Sothern, T Lewis
Subs: A Giles, D Hobbs, M Darling, G McCabe, C Harte
Russia: R Rogov, E Mokrousov, A Sergeev, A Korolev, A Cherenkov, A Zhirkov, D Volkov, S Kostarev, T Nikolaev, Y Loginov, A Platonov
Subs: I Larikova, A Likov, A Mamoskhin, A Godenkov, N Yankun