EuroHockey Nations Championships
Ireland 4 (K Good, P Caruth, S O’Donoghue, J Bruton) France 3 (J-L Kieffer, G Baumgarten, S Martin-Brisac)
Ireland’s men clinched a 4-3 win over France in their opening EuroHockey Nations Championship tie, beating one of the few sides that can hurt their Olympic hopes at this competition.
It was something of a roller-coaster as the French created more chances and circle penetrations but Ireland were more clinical throughout from slimmer pickings.
Kyle Good had Ireland one up inside 20 seconds with a delicious lob before their opponents had touched the ball, breaking past a defender on the 22-metre line and lifting over Corentin Saunier.
That opening salvo gave way to a concerted French volley. Jean-Laurent Kieffer’s deflection levelled matters in the 27th minute and Gaspard Baumgarten’s rasping shot put France in front three minutes after half-time.
Ireland rallied though, scoring from the next two attacks to swap things around. Peter Caruth swiped home at the second attempt from Eugene Magee’s initial incision for 2-2; Jonny Bruton forced in the third from close range after Saunier made a hash of a save.
Shane O’Donoghue stretched the lead out to 4-2 with a powerful drag-flick with 13 minutes to go but the tie was far from done.
Simon Martin-Brisac volleyed in a peach from the top of the circle to jangle the nerves before a video review fell kindly from an Irish perspective to deny France a late corner.
Should Ireland win the Euros overall, an automatic ticket to Rio is assured. However, if anyone other than France or Russia – who lost 10-1 to England on Friday – take the title, it aids Ireland’s hopes too, moving them up the list on the World League rankings and closer to Rio.
“Scoring in the first 20 seconds was almost to our detriment,” said Ireland’s goalkeeper and captain, Davey Harte. “We were glad to get to half-time and regroup. the problem was that our off-ball movement slipped and we gave France the chance to get into the game, and as we saw in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals, they are a dangerous side.”
Ireland are next in action on Sunday evening against Germany at 8.30pm in London.
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, E Magee, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, M Darling, K Good, J Bruton, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: M Watt, A Sothern, P Caruth, M Bell, M Robson, C Cargo
France: C Saunier, V Lockwood, J-L Kieffer, T Genestet, H Genestet, S Martin-Brisac, C Masson, G Baumgarten, J-B Forgues, F Scheefer, V Charlet
Subs: O Sanchez, A Fourcroy, G Deront, F Goyet, M Genestet, A Coisne