Men’s Belfius EuroHockey Championships
Men’s Pool C: Ireland 0 Wales 4 (G Furlong 2, D Hutchinson, B Francis)
Ireland fell to a devastating 4-0 defeat to Wales on the final day of the men’s Belfius EuroHockey Championships, ending up eighth and dropping to the second tier for 2021.
The defeat completed a miserable week for the side, losing to a Welsh side – ranked 14 places below the Green Machine – for the first time in 16 meetings dating back to 2006.
Overall, Ireland earned just one draw from their five outings, a last ditch draw against Scotland.
Two first half penalty corners from Gareth Furlong put them in control and they duly killed of fthe game with further strikes from Dale Hutchinson and Ben Francis.
“Just not good enough from 1-18,” said captain Jonny Bell. “Again two goals in the first-quarter, we weren’t able to keep that back door shut and gave them a big incentive in the game and then we were always chasing the game and struggling to break them down so, yeah, a really disappointing performance.
“We know we’ve got far more than what we showed today and what we showed over the tournament, talent-wise. We just haven’t put it together in long enough phases in games; we’ve seen moments and glimpses but its very hard to put your finger on the reason why we haven’t turned up.”
England’s earlier 3-0 win over Scotland meant both sides retained hopes of staying – Wales with a two-goal lead, Ireland with a win of any description.
And it was the Welsh who started off in flying fashion, taking the lead inside four minutes when Rupert Shipperley won a penalty corner. Furlong found a low route through Mark Ingram for 1-0.
In reply, Ireland won a corner within a minute with Shane O’Donoghue dragging his push wide of the mark. After that, Wales were largely the ones to control the ball in a game of few openings and they doubled their lead in the 20th minute courtesy of another Furlong special.
Ingram needed to be alert to deny James Carson from stealing in for a third goal that would have given them extra breathing room. They did have to spend the last part of the second quarter in deep-press mode when Owain-Dolan Gray picked up a 10-minute yellow card.
But Ireland could not make use of the advantage during which time both sides won corners. Daragh Walsh did draw a strong glove save from Ieuan Tranter who tipped over.
Wales then moved further ahead in the 38th minute when Dale Hutchinson picked up the ball 40 metres out from goal on the left sideline. He tore past two defenders before popping home around the goalkeeper.
Wales had three corners before the end of the third quarter but had to wait until nine minutes from the end to get their fourth when Ben Francis slapped into an empty goal
“It’s a low point for all of us but I suppose we all have to look at our individual performances from 1-18,” Bell added, saying it will be a massive task to get things back on track before the Olympic qualifiers.
“We can’t be pointing fingers, we have just got to review the way we played in this tournament, what went wrong during those performances, get back to basics, nail the basics and be as well prepared as we can going into these eight weeks.
“When it comes to playing against the top nations, we probably don’t have as many days together as a group. But, in the past, that never held us back and certainly against the likes of wales and Scotland, there’s absolutely no excuses.
“We can’t come up with excuses and point fingers at individuals or anything like that. We’ve just got to sit back with calm heads and review this. Obviously, we have a massive 10 weeks ahead and we’ll be underdogs going into this Olympic qualifier.”
Ireland: M Ingram, J Jackson, J Bell, E Magee, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, M Robson, B Walker, D Walsh, P Gleghorne
Subs: T Cross, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, S Loughrey, S Cole
Wales: I Tranter, D Kyriakides, J Draper, L Prosser, R Shipperley, R Furlong, S Kelly, R Bradshaw, G Furlong, O Dolan-Gray, L Hawker
Subs: J Naughalty, J Carson, D Hutchinson, J Gooch, H Jones, B Francis, J Fortnam
Umpires: C van Bunge (NED), M Gholami-Eilmer (AUT)