Hockey World League round two final
Ireland 2 (Mitch Darling, Shane O’Donoghue) Austria 1 (Michael Korper)
Player of the tournament Shane O’Donoghue was once again the goal-scoring hero as his 35th minute goal saw Ireland beat Austria 2-1 in San Diego, capping a superb week with a sixth successive victory.
As a result of Craig Fulton’s side’s impressive exploits this week, they will travel to World League round three in Buenos Aires, Argentina in June to compete for an Olympic berth – the primary objective for the week.
They did in style, winning the competition with a perfect record, scoring 29 times and conceding five times. They also won all the players awards with O’Donoghue, with six key goals, the tournament’s top man while David Harte got the goalkeeper prize.
Ireland’s semi-final win over Canada meant the pressure was off to some extent with qualification for the next phase of the competition assured and they duly got off to a flyer in the final.
Mitch Darling scored when he got on the end of Conor Harte’s searching pass for a second minute lead.
It only lasted a short while, though, as Michael Korper roofed Austria’s second penalty corner with just four minutes on the clock as the sides played a much more open tie than when they met in the group stages.
Darling and Bruce McCandless went close to restoring the Irish lead, the former hitting the side-netting early in the second quarter. Austria were sitting half-court and playing on the break and looked dangerous on the counter, drawing the best from David Harte.
The tie also got fractious with Chris Cargo, Kirk Shimmins, Patrick Stanzl and Bartosz Szmidt spending time in the sin-bin before half-time.
Three more players shipped green cards in the third quarter while Leon Thornblom took a yellow for a foul on Peter Caruth.
Ireland retook the lead during this phase from a penalty corner than Conor Harte dummied, allowing the ball to be switched to Shane O’Donoghue who shot through Michael Mantler’s defences.
David Harte saved an Austrian corner at the far end to retain the narrow lead going into the final quarter. Ireland let one corner slip before Austria got a set piece chance to level the game with four minutes to go but it was brilliantly charged down.
Both sides ended with ten men as Korper and Alan Sothern were shown yellow cards down the final stretch as Ireland closed out the tournament victory.
They can now look forward to a shot at Olympic qualification in Argentina where they will be part of a ten-team tournament with potentially six tickets to Rio de Janeiro on the line.
Speaking about his side’s success in San Diego, coach Craig Fulton was delighted with how his side managed the tournament.
“The final was tight and it wasn’t a great spectacle to watch but we scored early and then created some really good chances in the first half that we didn’t take.
“The tempo was good in the second half and we controlled the ball better. It was a physical contest with both teams getting stuck in which I thought was handled correctly.
“We scored a good corner early in the second half which made the difference. The last 10 minute were tight and I am proud of how the team closed out the game to win it.
“The tournament as a whole went really well. We got better in each game and reached our objectives early which was positive. I am especially proud of the win against Canada in the semi; that was our best performance of the week and we were able to carry that momentum into the final.
“San Diego was a success, too, because we didn’t concede a field goal in the tournament so that was a good result. Now to get the program confirmed leading into World League 3.”
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, A Sothern, E Magee, M Darling, P Gleghorne, C Harte, S O’Donoghue
Subs: J Bell, S Dowds, P Caruth, K Shimmins, B McCandless, D Carlisle
Austria: M Mantler, F Zeidler, S Eitenberger, M Korper, D Frohlich, B Szmidt, B Stanzl, F Steyrer, R Bele, M Minar, D Uher
Subs: M Podpera, A Bele, P Schmidt, L Thornblom, P Stanzl, J Heimans