Ireland’s Under-18 boys gave themselves a chance at avoiding relegation from the European top tier as they beat Poland 5-0 in Santander.
It was built on the back of four first half goals with Jack Haycock opening the scoring inside two minutes from a corner. Matteo Romoli nailed two penalty strokes in quick succession before half-time while Ali Empey was also on the mark.
Ben Johnson added another nine minutes from time in a fractious second half that saw Poland get three yellow cards and Ireland two. The win puts Ireland second in the relegation pool, ahead of France on goal difference, but they will more than likely need a win over England in their final game to stay up.
On the girls side, they will also go down to the final day to try and ensure their place in the top level following a 4-1 loss to Spain in a rain-delayed game.
Due to a drenched pitch, the match was pushed back eight hours. Laura Barrios and Julia Strappato put the Spanish 2-0 up at the break and a pair of Sara Barrios strikes put the result out of reach in spite of Caoimhe Perdue’s late goal.
Their equation will be known by the time they take the pitch due to their game being pushed back to 6.45pm to allow for adequate rest time under tournament protocols.
In their game against France, Ireland have to outdo what Belarus do earlier in the day against Spain to stay up.
In the Under-23 tournament in Antwerp, the Irish women finished up the group stages with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Belgium in the final throes of the tie.
In the early stages, the junior green army ran up a quartet of corners with shots coming in from Sarah Torrans and Serena Barr before Belgium shaded the second quarter.
The second half saw the stalemate continue with Edel Nyland’s change of pace looking dangerous and Michelle Carey seeing a shot just clear the crossbar.
The Belgians went to a kicking back from the last three minutes and it drew dividends when they won a corner with 90 seconds left which they scored for the game’s only goal.
Torrans did win a corner in the aftermath but there was no outcome and so Ireland were destined for the fifth place playoff against Canada on Saturday morning.
For the Under-23 men, they were beaten 5-1 by the Belgians. With only five teams in the competition, it means it concluded their competition a day early.
In the Under-16 girls competition in Cork, Ireland went into their game with Belgium on Thursday on the back of an encouraging performance against Spain.
They started brightly and creating some good chances from wide positions. The best chance of the first half fell to Ireland’s Nicola Torrans who skilfully dispossessed the Belgian centre back and forced a fine save from the goalkeeper.
Despite Ireland forcing a penalty corner in the 37th minute, Belgium began to take control of the game in the second half. Their consistent pressure was eventually rewarded when Margaux Vekemans scored their opening goal just before the end of the third quarter.
Two goals in two minutes in the last quarter from Claire Barry put the game out of reach for Ireland.
For the boys, they had plenty of reasons to be confident going into their game with Belgium having put in two excellent performances beating England and drawing with Spain during the week.
It was Belgium however, who got off to the perfect start, scoring from open play in the second minute through Axel de Bolle. Despite exerting pressure throughout the first half, Ireland were unable to find an equaliser and Belgium went in at the break 1-0 up.
Ireland came into their own in the third quarter dominating possession and forcing 3 penalty corners, with Troy Chambers coming close, however they could not break down a resolute Belgian defence.
Despite taking off the Irish goalkeeper Ben Whelan with two minutes to go, Ireland were unable to find a goal and it finished 1-0 to Belgium.
Women’s Under-23 Six Nations (Antwerp)
Friday, July 20: Ireland 0 Belgium 1
Saturday, July 21: Ireland v Canada, 9.30am
Men’s Under-23 Five Nations (Antwerp):
Friday, July 20: Ireland 1 Belgium 5
Girls European Under-18 Championship (Santander):
Friday: Ireland 1 (C Perdue) Spain 4 (S Barrios 2, L Barrios, J Strapatto)
Saturday: Ireland v France, 6.45pm
Boys European Under-18 Championship (Santander):
Friday: Ireland 5 (M Romoli 2, J Haycock, A Empey, B Johnson) Poland 0
Saturday: Ireland v England, 2.45pm
Boys Under-16s Six Nations (The Mardyke, Cork)
Friday, July 20: Ireland 0 Belgium 1 (A De Bolle)
Saturday, July 21: Ireland v Germany, 5pm
Girls Under-16 Six Nations (The Mardyke, Cork)
Thursday, July 19: Ireland 0 Belgium 3 (C Barry 2, A Vekemans)
Saturday, July 21: Ireland v Germany, 3pm