Rovers ride late rollercoaster to preserve Ireland’s place in Euro second tier

Three Rock Rovers indoor just about preserved Ireland’s place in the second tier of European competition with a 5-4 rollercoaster win over Switzerland’s Rotweiss Wettingen, capping their weekend with their best performance.

After back-to-back promotions brought Rovers from the lowest rung to the Club Indoor Trophy level this weekend, after plenty of early jitters, they found their feet at the right time to record a highest Irish placing since Avoca in 1995.

English champs East Grinstead gave an early indication of the level when they ran in five first half goals before Rovers got to the pitch of the game with three second half goals but still fell 6-3.

Croatia’s HK Zelina had already played 35 games this season and their patient, patterned game was evident as they ran in a 6-1 victory, picking off Rovers’ gung-ho approach.

Three Rock Rovers’ indoor side in Turkey

They would eventually go on to be promoted and the result confirmed Rovers and Saturday morning’s opponents SCHC were already in the relegation pool. In a feisty affair featuring six yellow cards, Rovers fell 5-1.

A much more controlled performance against Portugal’s AD Lousada, though, ended on a hollow note. Ross Canning put Three Rock in front in the 39th minute but they could not see out the last minute and Ricardo Teixeira levelled.

It meant only a win would do against Rotweiss on Sunday morning but that looked to be slipping away when they trailed 4-3 with six minutes to go. James Walker, however, notched an equaliser before Jody Hosking summoned his second of the game for a 5-4 lead with barely 120 seconds left.

Within moments, the Swiss won a penalty stroke but goalkeeper Stephen West was awesome throughout the competition and he kept out the chance to preserve the result.

“There was all sorts of drama but, to be honest, Westy had saved four out of five strokes over the weekend so there was sort of a surreal calmness!” coach Liam Canning said of those heart-stopping final moments.

“We were defensively really tight in the last two games and we should have got something more from the Portuguese game. We were pretty profligate in front of goal but today we were far more measured.

“It’s a typical Irish thing; we just started to play well and then the tournament is over and that’s it for another year but we achieved something here, not just for Three Rock but for Irish hockey.”

Were indoor to get a more defined space in the calendar, he feels Irish clubs could commit more to the game and, ultimately, become more accustomed to the European scene.

The initial calendar had these weeks marked off as indoor-time with the men’s EYHL set to return next week but two rounds were rescheduled for early February from the autumn due to the Olympic qualifiers.

“There should be a break. We shouldn’t be playing [like it is now]. We’ve trained Tuesday outdoor, Wednesday indoor, Thursday outdoor, outdoor match Saturday then indoor matches on Sundays. It’s ridiculous. You arrive here and some of the lads are tired.

“Our weather is so unpredictable so when do you have the break? But you see the Dutch team who know theirs is clearly defined at the start of the season while we are already back into EYHL games.

“It has been a long haul and to be able to stay up is a vindication of the things we do in a small hall in St Columba’s with, at times, very little opposition. Here, we were driven to our utmost and we reacted.

“A lot of Three Rock members supported us financially to do this but the time commitment is nothing when you see yourself improving. We are doing that and hopefully it can be a boost for our outdoor season as well. For me, it’s been a long journey but it has been great when you see it improve.”

“We are no longer a bobsleigh team and we showed that today!”

EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy (all in Alanya, Turkey)

Pool A: Three Rock Rovers 3 (R Canning 2, J Walker) East Grinstead 6; Three Rock Rovers 1 (H Morris) HK Zelina 6; Three Rock Rovers 1 (J Walker) SCHC 5

Pool C: Three Rock Rovers 1 (R Canning) AD Lousada 1; Three Rock Rovers 5 (H Morris 2, J Hosking 2, J Walker) Rotweiss Wettingen 4

Final standings: 1. SCHC 15pts 2. Three Rock Rovers 7pts 3. Rotweiss Wettingen 6pts 4. AD Lousada 2pts

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