Ireland set for England showdown after thrashing Poland
Record victory leaves Ireland needing a draw or better reach European Championships
Matthew Bell during Ireland’s 7-1 win over Poland in Amsterdam. Photograph: Koen Suyk/Inpho
Ireland 7 (O’Donoghue 2, Glassey, Murray, Sothern, Nelson, Loughrey) Poland 1 (Pawlak)
Ireland’s men require a draw or better from their final group game against England to reach the European Championships for the second successive time following their 7-1 demolition of Poland.
That date is set for Wednesday at 1.45pm (Irish time) and David Harte - who earned his 200th cap - said he is relishing the prospect.
“There’s certainly all eyes on the England game,” he said. “I don’t think it takes much for an Irish man in any sport or discipline to get up for it!”
The win over the Poles was the biggest ever, out-doing a 6-1 result in 1977, and added to an impressive draw with Germany on Sunday.
Compared to the German tie, there was little drama to it with the result done and dusted long before half-time.
Sean Murray’s piledriver nut-megged Maciej Pacanowski in the sixth minute to start the ball rolling. The second goal provided a glimpse of the immediate future as Kirk Shimmins exchanged passes with St Andrew’s schoolboy Ben Walker down the right, with the former crossing for Neal Glassey to turn home first time.
Shane O’Donoghue’s drag-flick picked out the top corner for 3-0 in the 23rd minute and 60 seconds later Alan Sothern was claiming a delicate touch to Matthew Nelson’s brilliant turn and burn.
O’Donoghue added an identical drag-flick for the fifth Irish goal before Patryk Pawlak got one back from Dominik Kotulski’s cross.
It came during an indifferent phase of the game before Ireland came back to life in the last few minutes, Nelson and Stuart Loughrey boosting their goal difference with a couple of simple finishes.
For goalkeeper David Harte, it was his 200th international cap, but he was solely focused on the task ahead rather than reflection on a spectacular career, twice earning the FIH World Goalkeeper of the Year award.
“It was more important to get the win and get the 7-1 on the board, replicating the six goal difference England did against them,” he said afterwards.
“It essentially sets up a sort of quarter-final against England on Wednesday to get into the top four in the European Championships.
“We did that for the first time two years ago so getting there again is something we are aspiring to.”
England subsequently lost 4-3 to Germany in a wild encounter, meaning Ireland head the group after two rounds of matches with a draw enough to see them advance.
The Irish women, meanwhile, return to the fray on Tuesday for their final group game against Germany. With high hopes and confidence entering the competition, it has been a low-key campaign to date with just one point from six to their name.
Only a big win over the Germans matched by a Scotland win over the Olympic gold medalists England will see them through.
As such, it looks like they will be involved in the relegation pool with the Scots, the Czech Republic and one of either Spain or Belgium.
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
Poland: M Pacanowski, M Raciniewski, M Gumnym D Kotulski, Ma Poltaszewski, J Janicki, M Kasprzyk, A Krokosz, P Bratkowski, Mi Poltaszewski. Subs: M Hulboj, T Wachowiak, J Kurowski, R Gruszczynski, P Pawlak, S Sellner, M Popiolkowski
Umpires: M Eilmer (AUT), S Michielsen