Hockey: Ireland’s top level status at risk after loss to England

Zach Wallace and Phil Roper netted as Shane O’Donoghue’s were beaten in Antwerp

Phil Roper netted the second for England in their win over Ireland. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Phil Roper netted the second for England in their win over Ireland. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

England 2 Ireland 1

Ireland’s hopes of avoiding the drop down to the second tier of European hockey hang by a thread after an early English double condemned them to a 2-1 defeat in Antwerp.

For a third time this week, they left themselves a mountain to climb in the first quarter as Zach Wallace and Phil Roper created a 2-0 lead.

Michael Robson’s superbly taken goal got one back before half-time but Ireland were unable to pierce a watertight English defence in the second half despite large swathes of possession.

“It’s difficult to put into words,” Shane O’Donoghue said after another deflating performance.

“It’s very, very disappointing. Hopefully England can do us a favour. We have to finish the tournament strong, make ourselves proud and what will be will be.”

Against both Germany and the Netherlands, Ireland found themselves a couple of goals behind inside eight minutes.

This time out, they lasted until the 11th minute but the warning signs were there when Lee Cole had to force a chance off the line. And England powered into the lead when Ashley Jackson bullishly drove through a few tackles on halfway to create a big overload before picking out Sam Ward.

His cross was turned in by Wallace. A minute later, Mark Ingram got a healthy boot out to save from Ward but Jackson retrieved the ball and returned it with interest into the circle where Phil Roper touched home.

Like the previous games, a combination of England sitting back and Ireland finding their feet made for a much better second quarter. Robson almost caught the opposition unawares from Daragh Walsh’s long overhead, teasing George Pinner off his line, but his push slipped wide.

In the 21st minute, the former Annadale man had his goal as the English defence parted for the flanks while Eugene Magee found him darting through the middle. A delicate slip deceived Pinner and the Green Machine were back in the mix.

The second half, though, proved an exercise in frustration. Ball possession was one thing but they were unable to eliminate a defender one-on-one and it meant they spent the game skirting around the edges of the circle rather than entering.

England were largely content to try and counter and with Chris Griffiths stinging the palm of Jamie Carr.

And Ireland were forced to finish the tie with ten men in strange circumstances when Conor Harte was sin-binned for a rough tackle. The foul had seen a penalty corner awarded but a video review over-turned the decision for an earlier English back-stick.

Ireland argued the card should not stand but such decisions do not fall under the remit of video umpires and so he had to stay on the sideline.

They did eventually win a penalty corner in the last two minutes but England read the move and charged down O’Donoghue’s effort and the game was up.

England: G Pinner, D Ames, H Weir, A Jackson, I Sloan, S Ward, P Roper, A Dixon, B Creed, J Gall, W Calnan.

Substitutes: 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.

Substitutes: J Carr, T Cross, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, S Loughrey, S Cole.

Umpires: P Vazquez (ESP), A Ortiz (ESP).

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