The Irish men’s indoor side finished the day with a bronze medal match assured, copper-fastened by a 4-0 win over Slovenia in their final group game of the EuroHockey Indoor Championship III in Santander.
They did come unstuck against hosts Spain – who had won their two earlier matches 9-0 – in in game one 3-0. They were down a player with vice-captain Jason Lynch suffering a broken bone in his hand against Scotland on day one.
Against the Spanish, John Jackson’s deflection to Mark English’s diagonal ball into the circle almost drew first blood but Adrian Rafi was not to be beaten in the tie.
The hosts – also returnees after a spell away from indoor – looked more assured, though, and they went in front in the fourth minute, working the ball to Ignacio Cobos in the left corner who spun to find a route to goal.
Marc Vizcaino hit the bar before whipping in Spain’s second corner in the seventh minute. He would net his second and his side’s third in the 18th minute from another corner but Ireland steadied well at that stage.
Neal Glassey’s forceful run ended with another Rafi save, leaving it 3-0 at the break. Ireland stayed compact in the second half, attacking at pace on the counter and they won a couple of corners but could not find a way through to close the gap.
“The boys put it up from the first minute to the last and, in my opinion, the scoreline didn’t reflect the game,” Lynch said afterwards having watched the game from the stands. “Their keeper made a couple of really good saves but, again, it is a learning curve for ourselves. We had a gameplan, stuck to it, and created numerous opportunities.”
For Irish manager Rob Abbott, he added: “The discipline and press against Spain worked really well after some good video work from Kenny Carroll and Craig [Stewart] to identify a weakness.
“We exploited it but obviously we were not clinical in the circle albeit they probably had 65 or 70% possession. We defended well and stuck to the plan. We are learning constantly and improving big time.”
Against Slovenia, things all came together in the first quarter with Jackson and Harry Morris scoring from corners for a strong 2-0 lead. Glassey made it 3-0 by half-time before Ross Canning netted his third goal of the tournament to complete the win.
“Against Slovenia, we kept a lot of the ball, they sat deep in their press,” Lynch said. “We could have scored more goals but in the end, we are delighted with the result and looking forward to the bronze medal match.”
Michael Robson was suspended for that tie for “reckless play” picked up by the TD to leave Ireland working with 10 for the game but he will return for Sunday’s classification game.
That will be against the winner of Slovenia and Wales who meet on Sunday morning.
Men’s EuroHockey Indoor Championships III (all in Santander, times Irish): Ireland 0 Spain 3 (M Vizcaino 2, I Cobos); Ireland 4 (J Jackson, H Morris, N Glassey, R Canning) Slovenia 0
Standings (played): 1. Spain (3) 9pts (+21) 2. Scotland (3) 7pts (+17) 3. Ireland (4) 4pts (-7) 4. Wales 2pts (-9) 5. Slovenia 0pts (-22)
Group matches: Slovenia v Wales, 7.25am; Scotland v Spain, 8.50am
Sunday Classification matches
Bronze match: Ireland v Wales/Slovenia, 12.50pm
Final: Spain v Scotland, 2.25pm