Three Rock Rovers into last 16 of the Euro Hockey League
Madeley’s late equaliser against Junior FC sees Irish club advance on goal difference
Three Rock Rovers are through to the last 16 of the EHL which will take place next Easter in Eindhoven. Photograph: Laszlo Gezco/Inpho
With nerves frayed to their ends, Three Rock Rovers defied the rankings to top their Euro Hockey League group in Barcelona and advance to the last 16 of the competition, the club game’s elite tournament.
Four late goals on Friday in a 6-0 win over Racing Club de France ultimately proved hugely important as they went through on goal difference ahead of home side Junior FC.
Three Rock duly dug out a 1-1 draw with the Catalan side on Saturday afternoon right at the death when Luke Madeley scored the equaliser with 61 seconds to go.
Their second game in the 25 degree heat provided a remarkable moment for Madeley who had been trying to sub himself off due to exhaustion before the last chance presented itself.
The draw left them playing the waiting game to see whether Junior could outdo their scoring tally against the French.
Indeed, there was an outside possibility of a shootout which meant six Three Rock players skipped their flight home for that eventuality and it looked a possibility as Junior went goal crazy early in their Sunday tie.
Three goals in the first 22 minutes had the Dubliners’ nerves in ribbons but Racing belatedly started making wonder saves.
At the base of their defence was Ali Haughton, a former Rover who is likely to rejoin the club in the new year after three years in Paris. He played a guiding hand which will earn him the odd pint on his return.
When Amaury Bellenger netted for Racing with eight minutes to go, it put the result out of reach of Junior who scrambled a 5-1 win, two goals shy of the target.
The outcome puts Three Rock through to the last 16 of the EHL which will take place next Easter in Eindhoven, making it three Euro trips this season – and sixth in two years – with their indoor side bound for Norway in February.