Ireland 2 England 2: A Shane O'Donoghue and Peter Caruth-inspired comeback came up just short as Ireland fell agonisingly short of the win they needed against England to reach a first ever European Championship semi-final in Belgium today.
The damage was done in the first half as Tom Carson nicked in to score two close range goals. O'Donoghue tied things up with his third and fourth goals of the tournament – both from the penalty spot – setting up a thrilling last 13 minutes.
But the breaks did not go Ireland's way as Michael Hoare somehow got a touch to deny Mikey Watt while another deflection flashed inches wide with two minutes to go.
It added another painful chapter for this emerging team. Last year, they were only ousted from the Olympics by world number sevens Korea with seven seconds to go.
This time, the world number four side were rattled by an Irish side ranked 11 places lower, but the killer moment slipped through their fingers.
Much of the post-match analysis focused on a first half in which Ireland held most of the territory and possession but were sucked in by a meticulous English counter-attack game.
It meant that while the stats were against them, they were far more effective, creating numerous overload situations. Carson scored in the seventh minute from just his side’s second attack, getting a slight touch to David Condon’s shot.
Eleven minutes later, Barry Middleton worked some magic down the right and his bouncing cross was turned in again by Carson.
But Ireland got a lifeline 19 minutes from the end when Conor Harte’s shot was stopped on the line by an English body and O’Donoghue converted the ensuing penalty stroke.
O’Donoghue added another stroke six minutes later after Watt was hacked down to make it 2-2.
Caruth was unstoppable during this time and he almost picked out Watt for the winner with time running out but it was not to be.
Irish skipper John Jackson afterwards lamented his side's first-half show that ultimately proved their downfall.
“That was essentially a quarter-final for us. The most disappointing thing for us was our first-half performance.
“In the second half, to fight and fight and push with some serious moments of quality and get it back to 2-2 but not then take the win, is devastating.”
Ireland now play in Pool C hoping to equal their best ever finish of fifth place.
IRELAND: D Harte, J Jackson, J Bell, M Watt, C Cargo, E Magee, P Caruth, B McCandless, C Harte, P Brown, S O'Donoghue. Subs: R Gormley, S Cole, K Shimmins, M Darling, K Good, D Fitzgerald, S Loughrey.
ENGLAND: G Pinner, H Weir, S Mantell, A Brogdon, M Hoare, A Dixon, B Middleton, I Lewers, N Catlin, D Fox, R Smith. Subs: B Arnold, O Willars, H Martin, D Shingles, D Condon, T Carson, J Bailey.