Ireland achieve vital goal in finishing second


HOCKEY:Ireland had hopes of winning the World League event in New Delhi but finishing second and qualifying for the next phase was vital for new coach Andrew Meredith and important too for the men’s side to keep the profile of the national team high.

That Ireland move on and compete in round three of the league brings them into the realm of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, which will now become a priority. The last time the team qualified for the premier event after the Olympics was in 1990 when the tournament was held in the Gadaffi Stadium, Lahore.

While Ireland finished 12 from 12 in that event (grouped with hosts Pakistan, Germany, England and Spain), the then professional Dutch coach Cees Koppelar was dealing with a squad of amateurs, albeit one that contained three British Olympic medallists in Stephen Martin, Billy McConnell and Jimmy Kirkwood, who shipped a bad facial injury during the event against the Canadians.

Still 24 years out of the international federation’s biggest event is too long and with a team of players, most of whom are playing full-time on European teams, qualification is achievable and probably necessary if they also hope to get to Rio in 2016.

The 16 teams in the next phases will be divided into two tournaments with eight travelling to the Netherlands and the other eight going to Malaysia. Ireland will not know which one they will be in until all round-two ties are over.

Ireland’s David Harte was named goalkeeper of the tournament and Pembroke’s Alan Sothern the best forward. Sothern also took the top goalscorer award with eight goals with India’s VR Raghunath.

Fixtures – Saturday: Leinster Senior League – Division One – Corinthian v Clontarf 12.0 Whitechurch; Monkstown v Weston 4.30 Rathdown; UCD v Glenanne 1.0 Belfield; Suttonians 4.30 Milltown.

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