Ireland let lead and discipline slip as England book semi-final slot
Matthew Nelson had given boys in green a half-time lead in Amsterdam
Matthew Nelson gave Ireland a 1-0 half-time lead against England in the Rabo EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam. Photograph: Sander Koning/AFP/Getty Images
Ireland’s hopes of landing a second successive European Championships medal were dashed as they gave up a first-half lead, falling to England – the side they beat to bronze in 2015.
The tie hinged on a third quarter marked by Irish indiscipline, going down to nine players with Shane O’Donoghue’s 10-minute suspension the big momentum shift.
In the first half, Craig Fulton’s side had England at arm’s length and where they wanted them as Matthew Nelson had Ireland 1-0 up, needing only a draw to advance.
After a tentative start, Ireland swooped from their first attack of note in the 13th minute for an opening goal. Nelson had volleyed into the goal from close range only for the umpire to blow for a penalty corner too soon, not allowing an advantage.
No matter, Nelson ended up diving onto Conor Harte’s guided pass to the right post in the very next play from the set piece to get his name on the scoreboard.
The tension dissipated to some extent as Ireland began to play some smooth, controlled passing sequences. England did have their moments, a video reviewed corner, leading to David Harte producing a remarkable double-save with his feet to frustrate Sam Ward and Harry Martin.
David Goodfield’s equaliser at the start of the second half was a blow but not terminal.
Then came the cards. First, Kirk Shimmins picked up a soft green for breaking down play. A minute later, Shane O’Donoghue lashed out at former Irish player David Ames, earned a 10-minute yellow card. Ames had a firm grasp of O’Donoghue’s shirt with the Glenanne man swinging his arm to get free. There was no connection but the proximity of the elbow to the face warranted the suspension.
During his absence, Ireland were under the kosh. Henry Weir missed a sitter before England’s second eventually came in the 44th minute. Ian Sloan – another naturalised English player who started out with Ireland – raced down the right wing and picked out Ward to guide home.
It took a while for Ireland to recover but they did get a lifeline when a Shimmins cross hit a foot. From the ensuing penalty corner, O’Donoghue had a chance at redemption but George Pinner palmed away his shot to see out the result.
Fulton’s reaction was succinct: “I’m a little lost for words; they took their chances, we didn’t. Game over.”
Skipper Jonny Bell elaborated: “Bitterly disappointed. We all had the belief we would make the semi-finals and get that medal. It’s not to be; we have to regroup quickly now.”
They now go into a relegation pool, needing to land at least a win against either Spain or Austria to stay up.
“A new tournament starts Friday with two big games and we need to win both and finish in that top five.”
IRELAND: D Harte, J Jackson, M Bell, A Sothern, N Glassey, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, M Robson, P Gleghorne, C Harte, S Loughrey. Subs: J Bell, M Nelson, S Murray, B Walker, D Walsh, L Cole, M Ingram
ENGLAND: G Pinner, D Ames, M Hoare, S Ward, P Roper, A Dixon, B Middleton, B Creed, D Condon, C Griffiths, L Sanford. Subs: O Willars, H Weir, H Martin, I Sloan, M Gleghorne, D Goodfield, H Gibson.
Umpires: A Kearns (Aus), F Vazquez (Esp).