Irish hopes dashed as third quarter turns the tide

Men’s Rabo EuroHockey Championships
Ireland 1 (M Nelson) England 2 (D Goodfield, S Ward)
Ireland’s hopes of back to back semi-finals at the European Championships came undone in Amsterdam as a pair of third-quarter English goals proved the difference.

England scored twice during that spell, Sam Ward’s winner coming while Shane O’Donoghue served a ten-minute suspension for lashing out at David Ames who was grasping his shoulder.

Craig Fulton’s side never found full flow after that and while O’Donoghue had a chance at redemption from a late drag-flick, English keeper George Pinner saved comfortably to close out the result.

“I’m a little lost for words; they took their chances, we didn’t. Game over,” was Fulton’s succinct assessment.

As for the O’Donoghue incident, both he and captain Jonny Bell claimed they did not see it. The Glenanne man got in a tangle with Ames with the former Cookstown man having a firm grip of the Irish player’s shirt who raised a sharp elbow to release himself as he walked awy.

There was no contact but the English midfielder went to ground and probably deserved some sort of suspension for initiating the conflict. For O’Donoghue, umpires Adam Kearns and Paco Vazquez deemed it “not deliberate” and so stopped short of a red card, settling for a yellow card.

Nonetheless the damage was done when Ward finished off a flowing move with Ian Sloan providing the assist.

Earlier, Matthew Nelson – who was rescuing the Irish Under-18s from Euro relegation this time last year – had given Ireland a 13th minute lead with a diving touch to Conor Harte’s ball in.

It came from Ireland’s first major attack after a tentative start. Nelson had volleyed into the goal from close range only for the umpire to blow for a penalty corner too soon, not allowing an advantage. No matter, Nelson got his goal in the very next phase.

The tension dissipated to some extent as Ireland began to play some smooth, controlled passing sequences. England did have their moments, a video reviewed corner, leading to David Harte producing a remarkable double-save with his feet to frustrate Sam Ward and Harry Martin.

David Ames and Shane O’Donoghue get in a tangle. Pic: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

At that stage, Ireland were in great shape, needing just a draw to reach the semis. They looked in control going into the second half but England found their mojo after the break.

David Goodfield scored just after the break, Liam Sanford’s raking pass from right back was redirected into the middle and hi shot – as so often this tournament – took a defensive ricochet on the way in.

Then came the cards. First, Kirk Shimmins picked up a soft green for breaking down play. A minute later, O’Donoghue’s yellow reduced Ireland to nine briefly.

During his absence, Ireland were under the kosh. Henry Weir missed a sitter before England’s second eventually came in the 44th minute. Ian Sloan, himself just back from a green card, raced down the right wing and picked out Ward to guide home.

It took a while for Ireland to recover but they did get a lifeline when a Shimmins cross hit a foot but the Pinner save with his glove closed out the tie.

“Bitterly disappointed,” skipper Jonny Bell added. “We all had the belief we would make the semi-finals and get that medal.”

“We have plans in place to cope with things like [going down to ten players] to come out of it the other end. It wasn’t to be.”

Ireland now go into the relegation pool with three points to their name courtesy of their win over Poland. There, they have games against Austria and Spain, with one win guaranteeing safety and two wins earning fifth place.

Jonny Bell holds off Mark Gleghorne. Pic: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

“We prepare the same as if we were going to the semis. We’ve still another few big games. We need to take lessons; we did some really good things, the third quarter caught us out so we need to fix that and stitch it all together.

“You learn lessons. You don’t want to learn them in big games but if we can make them work for us, it will be a lesson well learned.”

The Irish women, meanwhile, start their relegation pool against the Czech Republic on Thursday morning, needing a win to keep alive hopes of staying in the top tier.

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

England: G Pinner, D Ames, M Hoare, S Ward, P Roper, A Dixon, B Middleton, B Creed, D Condon, C Griffiths, L Sanford
Subs: O Willars, H Weir, H Martin, I Sloan, M Gleghorne, D Goodfield, H Gibson

Umpires: A Kearns (AUS), F Vazquez (ESP)

Rabo EuroHockey Championships (Amsterdam)
Men: Ireland 1 (M Nelson) England 2 (D Goodfield, S Ward)
Pool B standings: 1. Germany 7pts (+5) 2. England 6pts (+6) 3. Ireland 4pts (+5) 4. Poland 0pts (-16)

Thursday: Ireland v Czech Republic, 11.45am

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