** Huge thanks to Frank Byrne, Kieran McGoldrick, Billy Pollock, Crawford McKee and Harrold de Jong for all the details and pictures
Ireland’s men’s masters competed at Over-40, 45, 50 and 55 last weekend on the smurf turf in Wakefield for the annual Home Nations, a prelude to August’s European Open in Lisnagarvey.
The men’s O-55s came closest to taking the overall title with O-45s also finishing second place in their respective competitions. Here’s a rundown of how some of them performed over the weekend.
England 2 Ireland 1 (Paul Fitzpatrick)
Ireland competed well early on in their first game although most of the possession was with the English hosts. After 15 minutes, appeals over a disputed corner goal fell on deaf ears and saw the Irish 1-0 in arrears which was doubled shortly into the 2nd half from a second scrappy corner, just slipping past Kieran Healy and Clinton Murphy’s brave efforts to keep it out.
The Irish team pushed hard to try and get back in the game and created a number of chances which unfortunately went a begging. A crash ball into the circle from Paul Fitzpatrick gave Ireland a lifeline when it deflected in off a defenders stick. Try as they may, Ireland were unable to come up with an equaliser in the remaining minutes.
Wales 1 Ireland 2 (Keith Fishbourne, Jason Hill)
After Wales and Scotland had played out a 0-0 draw, Ireland faced the Welsh in game two and, right from the off, the Irish looked to impose themselves on the game with some good interplay yielding a number of chances, which were spurned. They did take the lead through Keith Fishbourne with a magnificent strike on the half-volley from the top of the circle. A loose clearance presented the Welsh with the chance to level early in the second half but Ireland pushed forward in search of a winner and got their reward with less than 10 minutes to go when Jason Hill snaffled an opportunity from a couple of metres out.
Scotland 2 Ireland 1 (Stephen Magee)
On Sunday in Scotland, having lost the services of Paul Fitzpatrick, Peter Creighton and Rob Carter, the Ireland O-40s found it difficult to get into a rhythm. Nonetheless, they were the stronger of the two teams earlier in the game but, as with other matches, the team failed to capitalise.
Loose defending late in the first half gave Scotland an unlikely opportunity which was duly dispatched to give them a 1-0 lead at the break. With players tiring, it was a taking a huge effort to get back in the game and the Scots, defending well, looked comfortable. A half opportunity fell to a Scottish forward and a deflection off the keepers stick allowed the ball to drop over the line to give the Scots a 2:0 lead. Ireland pushed hard in the last 10 minutes and were rewarded with a goal from Stephen Magee. Despite a final push Ireland were unable to muster an equaliser.
As a result, after 3 tightly fought games, with a single goal being the difference in each of the games the Irish Mens 40s finished third behind England and Scotland. England ran out winners on full points. While slightly disappointed at not gaining second spot, the team and management are looking forward to competing in the European Open in Hillsborough where they will have the opportunity to compete against the likes of USA, South Africa and Australia as well as the home nations.
Ireland 1 (Willie Cooper) Scotland 3
William Cooper put Ireland ahead early in first half, one they controlled comfortably to lead 1-0 at half time. Scotland came more into the game in the second half, scoring two quick goals from penalty corners. Ireland attacked strongly but couldn’t find a way past an excellent Scottish goalkeeper and a third goal came after Ireland defended a penalty corner but allowed the ball back into the circle to a free forward who finished well.
Ireland 3 (Willie Cooper, David Gilmore, Marty Collins) Wales 2
Once again, William Cooper got Ireland off to a great start, scoring a penalty stroke to give them an early lead. Wales equalised soon after from penalty corner but Ireland dominated play and created several chances which were spurned. Ireland take the lead after a great goal from David Gilmore, coming from left back to slam the ball home. Again Ireland conceded soon after from another Wales penalty corner. With seconds left, Ireland won a penalty corner which was eventually put away by Martin Collins to secure a great win.
Ireland 0 England 6
Ireland got off to an awful start to the game with England racing into a 4-0 lead within 15 minutes with the game plan to try and hold them for the first 20 minutes blown out of the water. From there, the team settled down and started to play attractive hockey, pushing the England defence back time after time but didn’t trouble the English goalkeeper.
England scored their fifth just before half time from another penalty corner. After a few stern words and a change of formation, Ireland started the second half on the front foot, pushing the English team back into their own 22, at last causing some problems with Neill Murray, Cooper and Collins prominent.
England hit Ireland with a 6th goal with a swift breakaway, with Niall Gilmer having no chance with a three-on-one. With 20 minutes left, Ireland pushed back at their opponents forcing the England keeper into action several times and were unlucky not to score on many occasions, any further English breakaways where easily dealt with by Gilmer and the Irish defence.
It was a great weekend for the O-50s, with coach Derek McWhirter pleased with the efforts of his squad, considering that he lost defender Kieran McGoldrick on the eve of the tournament and defender Sam Ireland after the first match, both due to injury.
O55: Ireland 3 (Richard Clarke 2, Fergus Stapleton) Scotland 1; Ireland 0 England 2
Ireland 4 (Richard Clarke 2, Harrold de Jong, Own Goal) Wales 1.
After a Friday night win over Scotland, courtesy of a Richard Clarke double, and a 2-0 loss to England on Saturday, Ireland’s O-55s had an outside chance of winning the title should they win their final game and hope for a favour from Scotland and Wales against England.
Wales came out strong and put Ireland under pressure, stepping up high but left space at the back. This was well spotted by Robert Haughton who took on two midfielders and found a pass to Billy Pollock on the right wing.
A little slip pass back inside to Sandy Sherrard who found the Richard Clarke overlapping on his left who slotted in finely – their first attack bringing a goal. Wales had to push on more with only one goal in it and were well into the game. But another strong midfield by play Clarke set Haughton free who decoyed the defense and found Harrold de Jong on the left who took the pass first time and put the ball in the net, making it 2-0 just before have time. Clarke chipped in with his second goal after the break and an own goal also followed to record a strong win.
It left Ireland on six points with England still with two games to play on three points. They drew 0-0 with the Scots meaning they needed a win over Wales in the final game. They duly obliged with a 6-0 result to land a clean sweep of the titles.
Men’s Masters Home Nations, Wakefield
O40: Ireland 2 Wales 1; Wales 0 Scotland 0; Ireland 1 Scotland 2; England 6 Scotland 2; Ireland 1 England 2; England 4 Wales 2
Standings: 1. England 9pts (+7) 2. Scotland 4pts (-3) 3. Ireland 3pts (-1) 4. Wales 1pt (-3)
O45: Ireland 0 England 3; Ireland 3 Wales 2; Ireland 1 Scotland 0; England 4 Wales 1; Scotland 1 Wales 0; England 3 Scotland 2
Standings: 1. England 9pts (+7) 2. Ireland 6pts (-1) 3. Scotland 3pts (-1) 4. Wales 0pts (-5)
O50: Ireland 1 (Willie Cooper) Scotland 3; Ireland 3 (Willie Cooper, David Gilmore & Marty Collins) Wales 2; Ireland 0 England 6; England 4 Scotland 0; Scotland 1 Wales 1; England 3 Wales 0
Standings: 1. England 9pts (+13) 2. Scotland 4pts (-2) 3. Ireland 3pts (-7) 4. Wales 1pt (-4)
O55: Ireland 3 (Richard Clarke 2, Fergus Stapleton) Scotland 1; Ireland 0 England 2; Ireland 4 (Richard Clarke 2, Harrold de Jong, own goal) Wales 1; Wales 0 Scotland 3; England 0 Scotland 0; England 6 Wales 0
Standings: 1. England 7pts (+8) 2. Ireland 6pts (+3) 3. Scotland 4pts (+1) 4. Wales 0pts (-12)