Ireland sweep into WL2 semi-final showdown with Wales

Hockey World League Round 2 quarter-final
Ireland 5 (J McKee 2, S O’Donoghue 2, E Magee) Poland 1 (P Bulka)

Ireland’s young side produced their performance of the week to date in a pressure-filled tie against Poland, winning 5-1 to advance to the semi-final.

It sets up a semi-final date with Wales and puts Ireland a step away from a ticket to the World League semi-finals where the World Cup tickets will be decided.

Shane O’Donoghue on the attack. Pic: Rowland White/Press Eye

They started superbly, winning a penalty corner in the first 15 seconds while Eugene Magee also had a smash at ball unfortunately blocked by team mate Jonny McKee.

From there, they moved the ball, creating a number of good attacks but the last pass just would not stick. Poland had a corner, too, but it was kept at bay with minimal fuss.

The second quarter, though, was where the game was won. Ireland employed a high-lying sweeper to good effect and it played a key role in the first two goals. Matthew Bell stepped forward to pick up the pieces and shoot across the face of goal in the 19th minute for McKee to guide home.

Monents later, it was 2-0 as Conor Harte this time strode forward and picked out Eugene Magee at the right post to turn home. Another feature was an aggressive press with Neal Glassey and Shane O’Donoghue preying on any loose ball.

The latter nicked in to set up the move that won Ireland’s second corner. O’Donoghue flung in the drag-flick for 3-0 at half-time. He added the fourth soon after half-time, this time from Glassey’s good work and the Green Machine were all but home and hosed.

Poland did rally, their tournament hopes on the line, and pushed on in the final ten minutes. Pawel Bratkowksi clipped the crossbar from a corner before Patryk Bulka nudged in a close-range shot from a scrappy melee.

Ireland, though, capped the win with a glorious fifth goal, breaking forward from half-way with a series of intricate one-touch passes, leading to Sean Murray to chip over the goalkeeper Rafal Banaszak. It was going in but McKee made extra sure.

Coach Craig Fulton said afterwards: “In a must-win game, there will always be tension. These are difficult games; it’s a quarter-final and must-win.

“Whether you play beautifully or its pretty, it doesn’t matter. The result is everything.”

Reflecting on the flow of the game, he added: “We did well in the first quarter but couldn’t put a final pass on it. They are a difficult team to play against and Mateusz Poltaszewski is a good player and controlled things for a while.

“But once we got one, two and three that put them under a lot of pressure. We pressed well. The stepping forward from us was really good. All respect to Poland, we maybe left three or four more goals out there. Where we are getting the ball are really good areas. It is building.”

Ireland next play Wales on Saturday afternoon in the competition’s semi-final at 2.30pm at Stormont. The winner advances to the final and is guaranteed a ticket to the next phase of the World League. Ireland will, however, be without Chris Cargo who has been ruled out for the tournament following a hand injury sustained against Austria on Sunday.

France and Scotland will contest the other semi-final. The French blitzed Ukraine 11-2 while Scotland won an epic tie against Austria in a shoot-out after normal time ended 5-5 with Alan Forsyth and Dominic Uher exchanging hat-tricks.

Ireland: D Harte, J Bell, M Bell, R Gormley, M Nelson, E Magee, N Glassey, S O’Donoghue, J McKee, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: B Walker, C Cargo, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, J Wright, J Carr

Poland: R Banaszak, M Raciniewski, M Gumny, D Kotulski, S Sellner, M Hulboj, J Janicki, R Wisniewski, A Krokosz, P Bratkowski, M Poltaszewski
Subs: P Bulka, B Zywiczka, R Gruszczynski, P Pawlak, J Kurowski, K Sudol, M Popiolkowski

Umpires: V Ilgrande, I Diamond

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