Irish interest in the Euro Hockey League came to a crashing halt in Eindhoven in the past two days with the six players involved all seeing their clubs bow out at the last 16 stage of the world’s best club competition.
David Harte’s fancied Dutch club Kampong were fallers to Belgium side Dragons on penalties after a thrilling tie had ended 2-2 in normal time. He was duly followed out of the competition by a trio of players in Reading colours.
Irish skipper John Jackson, Chris Cargo and Tim Lewis were all part of their side who fell 4-2 to Barcelona’s Real Club de Polo. Cargo was left frustrated not to make the 1-1 when the game was still in the balance, his effort ruled out as the umpire blew his whistle too hastily for a penalty corner when an advantage should have been played.
From there, his side went 3-0 down at half-time before fighting back to 3-2 in the closing stages. Xavi Lleonart – a tormentor of Ireland in last year’s World Cup qualifying campaign – killed off any lingering Reading hopes however.
For Harte, Cargo and Jackson, it means they could link up with the Irish team in Malaysia a couple of days earlier than anticipated to acclimatise for the Champions Challenge I. The rest of the side travelled out yesterday to Kuantan while the EHL trio were originally pencilled in to travel next Tuesday as a contingency should they have reached the European final.
Closing out the day, Geoff McCabe and Mikey Watt put in huge performances for London club Surbiton but lost out to tournament favourites Oranje Zwart, the recently crowned Dutch champions, 3-1.
Ireland will hope to earn a place back in the EHL in June when Monkstown play in the second club tier – the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy – in Italy. If they finish in the top places of that competition, it means they are likely to gain promotion for themselves to the marquee event.