McConnell steals last gasp win; Hobbs returns

Men’s Celtic Cup: Ireland 2 (A McConnell 2) Scotland 1 (K Bain); Wales 1 (B Edge)
Andy McConnell struck in the final ten seconds to turn a forgettable game into a memorable win for an inexperienced Irish side over Scotland. The Irish were bolstered by a surprise return for David Hobbs in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.

It was McConnell’s second of the evening, overturning Kenny Bain’s strike early in the second half amid wet and wild conditions.

Both sides had gone close before Bain broke the deadlock with an excellent strike on his reverse, rebounding off Iain Walker’s pads – a late call up in place of Dave Fitzgerald – after an initial save off Alan Forsyth.

Ireland worked hard for an equaliser and they got it when Andy McConnell tapped home amid a goal-mouth melee after a decent build-up.

With Paul Revington’s side reduced to ten, the Irish countered in the final seconds, scoring from the left side of the circle, flicking home with the last touch of the game.

It was a defiant showing from a side which featured a series of players looking to force their way into the reckoning for the European championships’ squad. Davy Carson, Ronan Flannery, Jonny Bruton and Kenny Carroll were all making their tournament debuts.

They were bolstered by Hobbs who returned for the first time since October 2009, a late replacement for Chris Cargo. The Reading man has been drafted into a more established Ireland panel for the UCD 4 Nations Cup which begins on Monday in Belfield. Eugene Magee’s injury necessitated Cargo’s redeployment.

The Cork C of I man, Hobbs, is the country’s most experience current international with 143 caps to his name but has been outside the panel since missing the November 2009 World Cup qualifiers through injury.

The 29 year-old subsequently took a break from international hockey for 2010 but announced his intentions to get back into the national panel with a man of the match performance in the Munster Senior Cup final.

Commenting on the match Manager Peter Jackson said: “This was a good game played in difficult conditions we are pleased with our resilience playing the game to the final whistle, 30 seconds is a long time in hockey, as we showed today.”

By contrast, the Scots were left feeling deflated: “This was a very disappointing result, again we lost the lead by not taking our chances to increase it and not defending well enough to preserve it,” said Eugene Connolly, Scotland`s manager.

Overnight, Ireland share top spot with Wales after they beat France 2-1, Mike Shaw scoring the winner.

This youthful Irish selection play France today (2pm) while a more senior selection will play an uncapped international tie against current world number eight side Pakistan (8pm, Belfield).

Ireland: Iain Walker, Peter Blakeney, Paul Gleghorne, Kenny Carroll, John Jackson, David Hobbs, Peter Caruth, Mick Maguire, Jason Lynch, Ronan Flannery, Davy Carson, Richard Sykes, David Ames, Andy McConnell, Gareth Watkins, Jonny Bruton

Men’s Celtic Cup: Ireland 2 (A McConnell 2) Scotland 1 (K Bain); Wales 1 (B Edge, M Shaw) France 1 (J-D Koch)
Standings: 1= Ireland 3pts (+1) 1= Wales 3pts (+1) 3= France 0pts (-1) 3= Scotland 0pts (-1)

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