Heavy defeat to England leaves Irish hopes hanging on 19-goal swing

Men’s EuroHockey Junior Championships
Ireland 1 (S Grace) England 7 (W Calnan 4, N Page, E Way, P Scott)

Ireland’s hopes of staying in the top tier of the Under-21 men’s EuroHockey Junior Championships are hanging by a thread with a 19-goal swing the only thing that could potentially save them a return to the B division and a lifeline for the 2020 Junior World Cup.

They fell to a 7-1 defeat to England with Will Calnan scoring four times. In combination with Austria’s 13-0 win over Portugal, it means Ireland need a massive swing to work in their favour on Sunday on the final day of Pool C.

At the outset, a draw or better for Ireland would have given them a huge chance of escaping from danger. But they got off to the worst possible start as Calnan scored on the reverse inside the first two minutes.

Keith O’Hare and Jamie Carr combine to keep out an English chance. Pic: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

A second followed before the end of the first quarter from a steal on halfway that led to Nick Page turning in Peter Scott’s cross. The English counter-attack was dangerous throughout and they held this 2-0 lead into the half-time break. Often in this tournament, cards played a part with two yellows and two greens adding up to 14 minutes worth of suspensions.

Further goals followed in the third quarter when Calnan and Edward Way netted from penalty corners before the fifth arrived early in the fourth quarter. It came while Ireland had withdrawn their goalkeeper in favour of an extra outfielder, chasing potential goals which may prove key on goal difference with Calnan shooting past the unpadded Sam Grace.

Calnan fired in a sixth goal on the backhand and Peter Scott completed their tally in the final minute. Grace did get one back with 1.6 seconds left on the clock.

Irish coach Jonny Caren said “it was a tough one to take” after a rough game for his charges.

“We were at 50%; they were at 100% and that’s how it went. There’s a few guys struggling injury wise off the back of some really big pushes earlier in the tournament and so the bench isn’t rolling as smooth as we would have liked.

Geoff Cole on the attack. Pic: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

“The thing I can’t take away is how hard these guys work when they are on the pitch. That’s a reflection of it with one and a half seconds to go, we still fought to get that one goal.”

There remains a sliver of a chance of Ireland staying up on goal difference and Caren hopes that late effort could help salvage an unlikely situation, the saving grace being the heavy defeats Portugal have suffered with double digit losses in their last three games.

“At the end of the day, that goal could be a massive difference come tomorrow. We’ll find out goal-wise what we have to do and hopefully, England will do a job on Austria and they should do the job if they play like that.

“The guys have spoken about it and they said this isn’t about us. This is more about the next generation; our job is about trying to keep that next generation in this division so they have a chance at a World Cup spot and that’s the only motivation we have now for this Portugal game and that the future is green for the 21s.”

Ireland’s men face Portugal at 9.30am (Irish time) and will know their ultimate target – if there is one – by the second quarter once Austria and England’s game is played.

The Irish women, meanwhile, conclude their tournament with a tie against Spain with only a win enough to give them a chance of staying in the top tier. That takes place at 12pm in Valencia.

Ireland: J Carr, L Madeley, M Samuel, K Marshall, S Grace, S Wolfe, R Getty, D Nelson, C Empey, J Dale, M Crookshanks
Subs: K O’Hare, F Morris, J Mullins, G Cole, P McKibbin, D Mawhinney, J Milliken

England: C Wyver, J Sutcliffe, T Sorsby, N Park, J Turner, J Waller, P Scott, E Way, N Page, R Smith, W Calnan
Subs: W Hewer, W Carter-Keall, Z Wallace, B Stevenson, D Scott, J Clee, T Reynolds-Cotterill

Men’s EuroHockey Junior Championships
Pool C standings: 1. England 6pts (+14) 2. Austria 4pts (+13) 3. Ireland 1pt (-6) 4. Portugal 0pts (-21)
Sunday (Irish time): Ireland v Portugal, 9.30am

Women’s EuroHockey Junior Championships
Sunday (Irish time): Ireland v Spain, 12pm

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