Ireland’s Under-21s came close to sharing their series with England at Pembroke with a 3-2 defeat on Saturday morning, following a 5-4 win on Friday and a 3-1 loss in the opening game.
For coach Jonny Caren, speaking to Dublin City FM, hailed the performances from a side that came together on a self-funded basis.
“The important thing for our lads is this is a self-funded programme where there are so few resources given to us. That England team has pretty much the same budget as our senior men’s team so we are always going to be behind eight-ball.
“On that, we could have had a training group last Sunday but the EYHL working group put a fixture on what was a designated high-performance day.
“To me, we have excelled in this series. I hope that people do take note of this, a full-time programme against a – we’ll call it – thrown together group which had three training sessions and then out we go.
“For a side who don’t have any time together, we go out, we do our homework and got a result. On Saturday, it could have gone either way – we had a stroke to level it which didn’t go in – but I am happy with how these guys performed this series.
Matthew Nelson was on the mark late in game one – a 3-1 loss – in the opening tie before Ireland won a cracker on Friday morning.
Julian Dale broke the deadlock from the stroke spot before Ben Wallace slipped in the second from the right baseline after breaking through two tackles.
Dale, employing a back-to-goal technique, added another stroke for 3-0 at the end of the first quarter. Luke Witherow notched the fourth before England got one back before half-time.
A great reverse from Adam McAllister made it 5-1 on his debut for the Under-21s before England’s James Oates, Eddie Way and Matt Ramshaw to reduce the lead to 5-4 but Ireland had their win.
On Saturday’s game three, Dale scored a drag-flick and a penalty stroke in a 3-2 defeat. He scored twice in the first half, cancelling out goals from Ronan Harvey and Nick Park in the opening quarter.
Zack Wallace put England back in front in the third quarter but Ireland missed a stroke in the closing stages to miss out on a chance of sharing the series.
“It’s what we are known for as a culture, our fight. We could have quite easily sat back and thought ‘it’s not our day’. We didn’t; we got our first goal when they had two extra players when they pulled their keeper. The grit and determination of this team is unreal. Everything is there; all we need is a bit of resources to help take it to the next level.”