In the aftermath of the senior EuroHockey Championships, the Irish Under-21s both suffered tough losses in the searing Valencia heat against two of the fancied sides.
The Junior Green army learned a harsh early lesson in their opening EuroHockey Championship encounter, going down 3-0 to England in the Spanish heat.
Speaking aftewards, coach Dave Passmore summed it up succinctly: “We just got punished when we played poorly. We started nervously and made a couple of errors and England were clinical. Two corners, two goals. We had more corners, way more of the possession but you have to play at 0-0 and not 3-0.”
Holly Munro picked out the bottom corner in the third minute to get England on the board and Erica Sanders added a second before the end of the first quarter from a slip left and sweep.
Ireland did create throughout the tie and a fine move between Sorcha Clarke, Edel Nyland and Abbie Russell almost unlocked the door. But they were caught once again before half time from a right-wing attack that ended with Holly Hunt finishing off in mid-circle.
The second half saw Ireland have the guts of the play, winning four corners and drawing some fine stops from Miriam Pritchard.
From one corner, Ellen Curran sustained a nasty stick to the face, leading to her having to depart for hospital while England’s Charlotte Calnan fainted due to heatstroke with five minutes to go.
“We haven’t played competitive games for three years at this level so I suppose it’s not surprising,” Passmore said afterwards. “But I think we showed enough in the second half that we are here to compete. With the draw in the other game, if we can win the last two games, we should go through.”
With morning temperatures already pushing the mercury up to 30 degrees, the Irish men took on Germany in their opening tie but got off to the worst possible start, conceding a corner that was soon upgraded to a stroke. Niklas Bossherhoff converted.
Simon Wolfe – one of two returnees along with Jamie Carr from the 2014 Under-21 Euros – equalised on the counter-attack to even the tie up at 1-1. Jan Schiffer put Germany ahead once again when he got on the end of a brilliant cross.
Luke Madeley evened up the game for a second time in the 39th minute, a direct drag-flick from a corner. But the game went away from Ireland a minute later when Moritz Rothlander scored almost instantly and Thies Ole Prinz made it 4-2 before the third quarter was out.
A yellow card for Sam Grace in the final quarter meant stymied their chances and so they now line up a date with Austria on Wednesday. The Austrians lost 5-1 to Belgium.
Jonny Caren said of the tie: “It didn’t go exactly according to our plan but I think we did well tactically. It wasn’t the best of starts going 1-0 down two minutes in but the boys fought back.
“At 2-2, the killer goal was the next one going in straightaway because we had the momentum at that stage. There was a massive work rate. You see how much sweat is on the shirts and the boys put in a huge stint. Hopefully, it gives us momentum for the next game.
“Austria is a target for us. Our objective this time around is to make sure in the A division. We set out a good stall today and if we can play that way again, the result will take care of itself and we will look at Belgium after that.”
German coach Valentin Altenburg – who led the senior team at the Rio Olympics – said of the tie.
“I think it was a good game to start; Ireland did a good job defending which was very effective. Whenever they entered ours, they were very dangerous, equalising twice and making things very difficult for us.
“Ireland will be a strong competitor. Everyone is getting closer together. Smaller countries are increasing their level and speed.”
EuroHockey Junior Championships
Pool B: Ireland 0 England 3 (H Munro, E Sanders, H Hunt); France 0 Germany 0
Tuesday: Ireland v France, 2.30pm (Irish time)
Pool B: Ireland 2 (S Wolfe, L Madeley) Germany 4 (N Bosserhoff, J Schiffer, M Rothlander, T O Prinz); Belgium 5 Austria 1
Wednesday: Ireland v Austria, 9am (Irish time)