Ireland 4 (S O’Donoghue, A Sothern, E Magee, S Murray) Germany 2 (T Grambusch, M Miltkau)
Ireland’s men will head to Johannesburg next week in confident mood following a superb 4-2 victory over world number three side Germany to win the Hamburg Masters title.
It continued their excellent run, losing just once in 16 games in 2017, and was probably the most significant result as goals from Shane O’Donoghue, Alan Sothern, Eugene Magee and Sean Murray saw the Green Machine best the 2016 Olympic bronze medalists.
Both sides were much changed from the line-ups that met in Rio last year with Ireland fielding eight players from then. The Germans had eight from Rio in addition to Jan-Philipp Rabente who won gold in 2012 in London along with six from the Rot-Weiss Koln side that won the Euro Hockey League earlier this month, showing this was no scratch outfit.
Nonetheless, Ireland made some strong opening strides with O’Donoghue picking out Stu Loughrey in the second minute on the overlap; his rising shot stung the palm of Tobias Walter.
The tie came to life in the second with three goals in less than two minutes. Tom Grambusch whipped in a corner for 1-0 and, moments later, Moritz Trompertz robbed possession on the 23-metre line and fired in for Marco Miltkau to tip in.
But Ireland were quickly back int the tie as Matthew Nelson and Neal Glassey worked some space down the right wing, feeding the ball into Jeremy Duncan who peeled off his marker. His shot was goalward bound but Shane O’Donoghue got an important shot to tickle the ball by Walter.
It was level by the break as Sothern was located unmarked and open in front of goal by Murray who did well to snatch the ball back after his first up chance was saved by Walter.
Following a 4-1 win over Spain and a 7-2 success against Austria, a draw would have been enough to win the title but there was no sense of sitting back.
Paul Gleghorne and O’Donoghue combined brilliantly with the latter latching onto a diagonal overhead pass to burst in behind the German defence. With space and time, he made no mistake in picking out Eugene Magee at the far post for a superb go-ahead goal in the 34th minute.
From there, the hosts piled on the pressure, pinning Ireland back in their own circle for long periods. The pick of the chances fell to Christopher Ruhr with a rising reverse-stick shot that David Harte dealt with well.
In that spell, John McKee picked up a yellow card. During that spell, Germany went for broke in the last ten minutes, swapping their goalkeeper for a kicking back it was, for a time, 11 on eight outfielders.
McKee, though, returned just in time. Straight from the sin-bin, he raced onto a pass down the right wing and he fired the ball across to Sean Murray in the middle of the circle and he poked home on his backhand for 4-2.
There was still plenty of defending to do – something which led to David Harte winning the game’s “most entertaining player” award – while Bell saved another drag-flick at the left post.
The result puts Ireland in great shape for their World League semi-final tournament in South Africa. There, they will need a top-five finish from the 10-team competition to qualify for a first World Cup since 1990; the competition starts on July 9.
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, J Bell, C Cargo, A Sothern, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, J McKee, P Gleghorne, S Loughrey, S Cole
Subs: M Bell, M Nelson, N Glassey, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, J Carr
Germany: T Walter, M Muller, L Windfeder, M Trompertz, T Herzbruch, J-P Rabente, T Grambusch, C Ruhr, M Zwicker, B Furk, N Wellen
Subs: J Gomoll, T O Prinz, D-E Linnekogel, M Miltkau, J Meyer, F Weinke, M Appel
Umpires: M Eilmer, M Gabarro