Matching the senior men’s team, Ireland’s Over-40 Masters secured a European semi final place for the first time in their history to setup a match against the old foe of England.
The pool games started very well against Holland with both teams shaking off the effects of travelling to the superb facilities at St Alban’s. Thirrd in the world, Holland went 1-0 up within five minutes and then added a second in the second quarter.
Ireland got on the scoresheet in the third quarter. After great play in midfield, a scrappy attack was finished off in style by Duggie Good. However, with late infringements that Floyd Mayweather would be happy with, it meant Paudie Carley was yellow carded with 15 minutes left.
The strength in depth of the Dutch was too much on the Irish goal and two goals with five minutes to go sealed the 4-1 win for the Dutch.
Next up was Spain. Having lost to the Scottish the day before, it meant that Spain needed to win or would be out of a semi final place. Drawing on the display from the Saturday, Ireland started well but again went behind from a once in life ime goal from the Spainsh.
Not disheartened, the Irish replied two minutes later with a text book penalty corner from Michel Pobloth and the scores remained level until deep into the second half.
Then Paul Fitzpatrick, Ireland’s captain in his last year, made an inspired call at a short corner and Good snatched the lead for Ireland nonchalantly at the back post.
This was quickly followed up with Pobloth’s second into the roof of the net. Ireland couldn’t relax with the Spanish team, containing four ex-internationals, pressing harder than the loaded cannons of the Armada trained on Gordon Clarke’s Irish goal to gain control and stay alive in the tournament.
However, their fate was sealed by Peter Bland scoring Ireland’s fourth and leaving the keeper sprawled on the floor and crying from the amazing chip shot.
Monday’s game against the Scottish was a nervy affair. Ireland knew a draw would see them though to the semi-final. However, a Scottish win by three goals could change the table and Scotland would go through.
With the two teams knowing each other well, Ireland struggled to play the flowing and champagne hockey from the day before. The deadlock was broken in the 59th minute by Scotland, however the reply was swift and clinical from Stephen Magee at the top of the circle.
Celebrations were short lived as three minutes later – and with only five minutes left – Scotland scored from a penalty corner. As the final hooter sounded, Ireland were left frustrated and angry at their display, also worried if they had done enough to secure a semi final sport.
This was confirmed shortly after and preparations to beat England again within 12 months had started. Coupled with the news of Ireland’s senior team making the semi-final in their European Competition, the Masters were on hand to watch and support them and managed to get a get photo of both teams, Irish legends young and old.