Hockey World League, round two semi-final
Ireland 2 (Shane O’Donoghue 2) Canada 0
A pair of Shane O’Donoghue penalty corners around the 40-minute mark saw Ireland win through to the final of the Hockey World League round two in San Diego.
More importantly, the result means Ireland have earned one of the three tickets on offer from this tournament to World League round three in June when the Olympic qualifying places will be doled out.
That double broke wide open an otherwise tightly knit and intense battle as the hazards of pool-play pitted together the two pre-tournament top ranks in a huge tussle.
On a day when Ireland’s Chris Cargo made his 100th appearance, the first half was low on chances, the two sides playing cat and mouse. Canada’s long aerials were the main threat as key man Scott Tupper launched a number of assaults.
David Harte kept out a couple of penalty corners from David Guest as well as some good counter-attacks via Mark Pearson. In reply, Mikey Watt earned Ireland’s first corner, one which was well saved by David Carter on his 100th international cap.
Canada started the second half in the ascendancy with near constant pressure but David Harte stood tall once again. But the game was swung dramatically Ireland’s way in the 39th minute when a long ball picked out Mitch Darling and he won a corner.
O’Donoghue rocketed his shot to the roof of the net for a precious lead. Peter Caruth then forced another set piece, drawing a heavy foul from Adam Froese which earned him a yellow card sin-binning.
This time on the switch, O’Donoghue fired home his second goal in a couple of minutes. Ireland went into the final quarter full of confidence but were unable to convert a couple of corners while another effort was scooped off the Canadian line.
It mattered little, though, as Craig Fulton’s side closed out the 2-0 result to earn their place in World League 3, more than likely in Argentina.
Speaking afterwards about the win and progression to the next phase of the World League, manager Peter Jackson said: “The players deserved their victory in a controlled and disciplined performance with everyone giving 100%.
“Our primary objective was always to finish above Canada and we achieved that today. We played with gritted determination but showed patience in our build-up play. We have set ourselves a benchmark this tournament but take no opponent for granted.
“At this level, every game is tough and the winning stakes are high and today was both physical and mentally demanding. We look forward to tomorrow’s final whether it be Russia or Austria.”
With their initial target complete, Ireland can now look forward to Sunday’s final against either Austria or Russia at 3.15pm (10.15pm Irish time).
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,
Canada: D Carter, B Martin, S Tupper, A Froese, G Johnston, P Wharton, M Pearson, G Ho-Garcia, I Smythe, M Guest, S Panesar
Subs: D Jameson, B Bissett, M Sarmento, J Smythe, T Curran, D Noronha Teixeira