Rabo EuroHockey Championships
Ireland 7 (O’Donoghue 2, Glassey, Murray, Sothern, Nelson, Loughrey) Poland 1 (Pawlak)
Ireland’s men require a draw or better from their final group game against England to reach the European Championships for the second successive time following their 7-1 demolition of Poland.
That date is set for Wednesday at 1.45pm (Irish time) and David Harte – who earned his 200th cap – said he is relishing the prospect.
“There’s certainly all eyes on the England game,” he said. “I don’t think it takes much for an Irish man in any sport or discipline to get up for it!”
Ireland v Poland – Men’s Rabo EuroHockey Championships – Match Highlights pic.twitter.com/Nspm9xixN1
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The win over the Poles was the biggest ever, out-doing a 6-1 result in 1977, and added to an impressive draw with Germany on Sunday.
Compared to the German tie, there was little drama to it with the result done and dusted long before half-time.
Sean Murray’s piledriver nut-megged Maciej Pacanowski in the sixth minute to start the ball rolling. The second goal provided a glimpse of the immediate future as Kirk Shimmins exchanged passes with St Andrew’s schoolboy Ben Walker down the right, with the former crossing for Neal Glassey to turn home first time.
Shane O’Donoghue’s drag-flick picked out the top corner for 3-0 in the 23rd minute and 60 seconds later Alan Sothern was claiming a delicate touch to Matthew Nelson’s brilliant turn and burn.
O’Donoghue added an identical drag-flick for the fifth Irish goal before Patryk Pawlak got one back from Dominik Kotulski’s cross.
It came during an indifferent phase of the game before Ireland reawoke for the last few minutes, Nelson and Stuart Loughrey boosting their goal difference with a couple of simple finishes.
For goalkeeper David Harte, it was his 200th international cap, but he was solely focused on the task ahead rather than reflection on a spectacular career, twice earning the FIH World Goalkeeper of the Year award.
“It was more important to get the win and get the 7-1 on the board, replicating the six goal difference England did against them,” Harte added.
“It essentially sets up a sort of quarter-final against England on Wednesday to get into the top four in the European Championships.
“We did that for the first time two years ago so getting there again is something we are aspiring to.”
England subsequently lost 4-3 to Germany in a wild encounter, meaning Ireland head the group after two rounds of matches with a draw enough to see them advance.
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“The belief in this group is incredibly powerful,” the goalkeeper said of the confidence in the group. We came into the tournament unsure of how it would potentially go but the effort we put in to get that historic draw against Germany and then a powerful 7-1 win. So we are really excited to get going against England.”
John Jackson took up the theme, saying it has been great to return to the panel after post-Rio time away.
“Having missed the first part of the year through work commitments, I knew there was a new squad. I think it’s a credit to some of the older guys who have made it really accommodating and enjoyable place to thrive. Credit to the management and the staff where there’s a few new faces on board.
“Everyone’s in the place where we need to get on and we need to get on quickly. Otherwise, we could have sunk very quickly in a very important year of World Cup qualifiers and these Europeans. It’s either gel or not. The circumstances dictated that we come together. It’s all good signs.”
He paid tribute to his long-time goalkeeper and team mate on his 200th cap.
“The only down-point was that we could not get the clean sheet for him. We can’t sing his praises enough. He is the world’s best goalkeeper and is at the top of his game.
“It’s an absolute treat and while we try and protect him as much as possible, it’s not bad when he gets the odd shot to make a world class save – it’s nice to see that sometimes!
“It’s a credit to him as well to do it on this stage. I don’t think many other places put on a show like here. We’re delighted for him and he will probably not be far off 300!”
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, M Bell, A Sothern, N Glassey, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, M Robson, P Gleghorne, C Harte, S Loughrey
Subs: J Bell, M Nelson, S Murray, B Walker, D Walsh, L Cole, M Ingram
Poland: M Pacanowski, M Raciniewski, M Gumnym D Kotulski, Ma Poltaszewski, J Janicki, M Kasprzyk, A Krokosz, P Bratkowski, Mi Poltaszewski
Subs: M Hulboj, T Wachowiak, J Kurowski, R Gruszczynski, P Pawlak, S Sellner, M Popiolkowski
Umpires: M Eilmer (AUT), S Michielsen (BEL)