The numbers continue to pile up for the Irish U-21 boy’s side as they brought their tally to five wins from five and 19 goals to their name to build up for the European ‘C’ division campaign in Bratislava next week.
They produced three comprehensive wins over Wales in Belfield this week as they play in the final European campaigns of a busy summer for Irish hockey returning to the U-21 grade for the first time since 2004.
After a pair of 2-0 wins in the Celtic Cup, they raced into the grove on Wednesday evening against the Welsh as full internationals – and former St Andrew’s team mates – Stu Loughrey and Davy Carson popping in early goals.
Wales bounced back but a pair of Peter English corners and Shane O’Donoghue’s neat finish earned a 5-1 win.
They went one better in game two as Stephen Dowds’ double and a goal each from O’Donoghue – his coming inside a minute – and Carson built a 4-0 half-time lead. English’s corner and an excellent poacher’s goal from Carson closed out a 6-1 result.
On Friday morning, English added to his goal count, once again the set piece his hunting ground, while Dowds also nabbed one from the set-piece for a 2-0 half-time lead. Carson and Dowds completed this result despite a couple of concessions, 4-2 the final score.
It gives the side plenty of confidence going into their Euro campaign. With no recent ranking record to speak of, Ireland will start off in the third and bottom tier where they will be unbackable favourites to win both the men’s and women’s competitions against minnows Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia.
Coaches Brendon Carolan named his 18-strong panels, with the men’s in particular boasting some heavyweight experience given seven of the panel have already played at senior level for Ireland.
Loughrey (Loughborough) is an Ireland regular and was involved in March’s Olympic qualification near-miss, while Banbridge pair Phil Brown and Stephen Dowds, Monkstown brothers Stephen and David Cole and UCD’s Shane O’Donoghue have all been blooded by Paul Revington.
Stephen West, meanwhile, has been a regular in the senior training panel for the past few years. That high level of experience is mixed with plenty of youth too; Kirk Shimmins, Jeremy Duncan and indeed David Cole, the former pair who played this week with the Irish U-18s.
The women’s panel also go into their competition as the fancied side in Lisbon, their competition placing them in a four-team competition with Azerbaijan, Portugal and Trukey.
Rudi Woortman’s panel is backboned by Irish Senior Cup winners UCD, who supply four players – Brenda Flannery, Leah Ewart, Sarah Greene and Nicola Gray. A smattering of talent bound for the American student leagues next year, such as Kerri McDonald and Gillian Pinder, will also have a chance to impress their new coaches. Both tournaments take place from July 18-22.
Ireland U-21 Men’s squad for EuroHockey Junior Championships III, Bratislava, July 18-22: S West (GK, Three Rock Rovers), M Ingram (GK, Monkstown), P Brown (Banbridge), S Loughrey (Loughborough), K Lynch (Pembroke Wanderers), S O’Grady (UCC), S O’Donoghue (UCD), K Shimmins (Pembroke Wanderers), M Bell (Banbridge), S Cole (Monkstown), S Dowds (Banbridge), O Magee (Banbridge), N Burns (UCD), D Carson (Corinthian), J Duncan (Railway Union), M Crooks (Cookstown), P English (Railway Union), D Cole (Monkstown).
Ireland U-21 Women’s squad for EuroHockey Junior Championships III, Lisbon, July 18-22: R Barnett (GK, Railway Union), SJ Greer (GK, Leeds Met), N Barr (Lurgan), N Gray (UCD), B Flannery (UCD), S Greene (UCD), A-M Morton (Clydesdale Western), H Matthews (Loreto), L Ewart (UCD), K McDonald (Armagh), A Meeke (Loreto), G Pinder (Hermes), E Beatty (Old Alex), N Carroll (Catholic Institute), A Curran (UCC), H Mulcahy (Loreto), O Roycroft (UCC), A Naughton (Old Alex); Reserve GK: N O’Connor (Genesis); 1st Reserve: Orla Fox (Railway Union).