Belfius EuroHockey Championships
Men’s Pool B: Netherlands 5 (B Kellerman 2, M Pruijser 2, S van Ass) Ireland 1 (S O’Donoghue)
Ireland’s men fell to a tough opening 5-1 loss to the three in-a-row chasing Netherlands at the Belfius EuroHockey Championships in the teeming rain in Antwerp.
They fell 3-0 behind in the first eight minutes to a fired up Dutch side and while they fought back well in the second and third quarters, the world number two side were too strong.
For Irish captain Jonny Bell, he admitted it was a tough day in the rain.
“We started very poorly and they caught us on the hop a bit, scoring those three goals,” he told The Hook. “It’s a long way back from there but we did regroup and got one back. At times, we played up to the level required and there were good signs. But for long periods, we just weren’t on the money.”
In the first three minutes, Seve van Ass burst into the circle to pick out the top corner with an unstoppable reverse-stick shot; Ireland did call for a video review, feeling he used the back of his stick illegally but the goal stood.
Soon after, Mirco Pruijser was fed with his back to goal and he wriggled out of a tackle and pumped in a vicious shot. Bjorn Kellerman did likewise from further out and Ireland were left with a mountain to climb.
After the initial shell-shock, Ireland began to put some good phases together, most notably when Ben Walker clipped a foot for a penalty corner. Shane O’Donoghue did the rest with his 107th international goal with a low ripper past Sam van der Ven to give hope.
Eugene Magee then stung the palm of Sam van der Ven as the Dutch looked rattled, particularly when Jelle Galema was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for an off-the-ball incident.
Some of the tackles the Green Machine put in at this stage were huge, stretching every sinew to stay in the contest.
Kellerman, though, got a killer fourth goal in brilliant style, a perfect strike while running away from goal with an upright volley. Mark Ingram made some outstanding saves, too, but could not keep out Mirco Pruijser’s perfect neat post touch in the closing quarter.
He did praise the two goalkeepers – Jamie Carr and Mark Ingram – who shared the duties in the stead of the injured David Harte.
“Both guys have been training with the squad a long time and we are lucky to have a pool of really good keepers. It was always going to be tough but the guys performed well and will kick on.”
Indeed, Ingram did make a spectacular save from Pruijser in an assured second half. The Rotterdam goalie says it is a huge opportunity for both keepers.
“The squad was announced early and we knew Dave might or might not be available depending on fitness. It allowed me and Jamie [Carr] to get meaningful game time at a high level.
“We were well prepared and know this is an opportunity for both of us to show ourselves on the world stage that we can step up to the mark.”
Ingram says he has benefited massively from his season to date in Holland.
“It’s amazing – being able to be a full-time athlete, train all the time with high-end players like Diede van Puffelen, Jeroen Hertzberger and Thijs van Dam [from the Dutch squad] five days a week.
“Every game in the Hoofdklasse is an international standard so I’ve seriously improved. It’s like 22 extra international games every year. You can’t not improve.”
Ireland are back in this. O'Donoghue whips a low hard flick into the bottom corner #EHC2019
— EuroHockey (@eurohockeyorg) August 17, 2019
Ireland play game two on Sunday against Scotland at 2.45pm (Irish time) in their second game. The Scots lost 9-0 to Germany in the other group game in Antwerp but did push Ireland close in a two-game series in Glasgow last month.
“Always a huge battle,” Bell added. “Any recent game has been a gritty affair and both teams will be up for it. We need to dust ourselves down, look at the errors we made and correct them.”
The Irish women, meanwhile, start their campaign on Sunday at 10.15am (Irish time) against England.
Ireland: J Carr, J Jackson, J Bell, E Magee, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, B Walker, D Walsh, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: T Cross, M Robson, J Duncan, L Cole, S Loughrey, S Cole, M Ingram
Netherlands: P Blaak, J de Geus, B Bakker, S van Ass, S de Wijn, S Baart, M Pruijser, B Kellerman, T Brinkman, J Janssen, M van der Weerden
Subs: J Hertzberger, L Balk, G Schuurman, D van Puffelen, J de Mol, J Galema, S van der Ven
Umpires: B Goentgen (GER), P Walker (ENG)