Belfius EuroHockey Championships
Men’s Pool C: England 2 (Z Wallace, P Roper) Ireland 1 (M Robson)
Ireland’s men go into Saturday’s final EuroHockey Championship tie with Wales in a perilous position with their chances of avoiding the drop largely out of their hands after a 2-1 loss to England.
Two goals in the first quarter from Zach Wallace and Phil Roper made the difference and while Ireland fought back via Michael Robson’s goal, it was not enough to turn the tide.
It leaves them occupying one of the two relegation places with a win not guaranteed to be enough. Should England and Scotland draw, Ireland and Wales will be down – if there is a winner, Ireland will have a chance to survive on goal difference.
Shane O’Donoghue said of the result: “It’s difficult to put into words. It’s very, very disappointing. We knew it would be a tough encounter, no matter what way the game went.
“All we can do is make ourselves proud in the last game and get those three points. It will come down to England-Scotland and hopefully England can do us a favour. We have to finish the tournament strong, make ourselves proud and what will be will be.”
Wallace put England 1-0 up in the 11th minute following a sublime piece of work on the right sideline from Ashley Jackson, breaking out of three tackles to create an overload. His pass found Sam Ward on the baseline and he laid on the perfect ball for Zach Wallace to score.
A minute later, it was 2-0. Mark Ingram got a solid boot to Ward’s drag-flick but Jackson retrieved the ball and fired it back into the circle where Phil Roper deflected in from around the flick spot.
Ireland, though, slowly worked their way back into the game with Michael Robson going very close when he caught Daragh Walsh’s overhead. And he took his chance in the 21st minute from Eugene Magee’s incisive pass, giving Robson the chance to tip the ball past George Pinner.
The third quarter was tense with Jackson seeing a drag-flick deflected around the post by Jonny Bell. Jamie Carr palmed away a Chris Griffiths shot but, otherwise, chances were at a premium.
The last 15 minutes saw Ireland press on and hold most of the possession but they could not find their way through a condensed, disciplined English defence who left very few chinks in their armoury, particularly in one-on-one duels.
Ireland’s last-ditch hopes were dealt a blow, too, when Conor Harte was shown a yellow card for a foul on Will Calnan which was initially given as a corner. A video review annulled the corner for a back-stick prior to Harte’s tackle but the suspension remained due to the rough nature of the challenge in the umpire’s eyes.
One penalty corner in the last two minutes did come from O’Donoghue but was charged down and England had their vital win.
O’Donoghue lamented the side’s slow start, similar to the games against Germany and the Netherlands.
“It’s something we have tried to improve game on game, making sure our deep defence is in place. It did give us a mountain to climb, going two goals down in the first quarter.
“We lost that 15 minutes, no doubt about it, and it has been a recurring theme this tournament, something we have to find some solution to or it will be the B division.”
England: G Pinner, D Ames, H Weir, A Jackson, I Sloan, S Ward, P Roper, A Dixon, B Creed, J Gall, W Calnan
Subs: O Willars, H Martin, C Griffiths, J Waller, T Sorsby, Z Wallace, H Gibson
Ireland: M Ingram, J Jackson, J Bell, E Magee, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, M Robson, B Walker, D Walsh, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: J Carr, T Cross, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, S Loughrey, S Cole
Umpires: P Vazquez (ESP), A Ortiz (ESP)