Ireland men were denied a berth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after a controversial decision to award Canada a last-gasp penalty stroke as the Green Machine were ultimately beaten in a sudden-death shoot-out in Vancouver.
Ireland were losing 2-1 on the night but led 6-5 on aggregate over two legs until the final seconds of the match when Canada found themselves in the D and the ball went clear.
The Irish celebrated as the match ended before a collision inside the circle went upstairs to the video umpire Diego Barbas.
A decision to award a penalty stroke incensed the Irish after Lee Cole was adjudged to have infringed upon a Canadian attacker. Video footage was unclear at the time as to contact made.
Canada scored and then came back in the shoot-out to seal an unlikely win.
— Gareth Hanna (@GarethHanna11) October 28, 2019
Ireland skipper Jonny Bell praised Canada for the win after the match but then laid blame at the door of the match officials for the decision which ended Ireland’s dream of making back-to-back Olympics.
He said: “The video umpire should hang his head in shame. It was a terrible, terrible decision in the last moments of the game.
“Fair play to Canada, they came out strong at us. They had chances, we had chances, but as I say a decision like that at this level is just not acceptable.”
A 5-3 victory in the first game meant that Ireland started with a two-goal advantage, a lead that was quickly extended when John McKee put the Green Machine 1-0 up in the sixth minute.
But goals either side of half-time from Gordon Johnston and Oliver Scolfield put the hosts within one goal. Canadian captain Scott Tupper then kept a cool head at the death to slot home the penalty stroke to make it 6-6 on aggregate.
Misses from Canadian pair Sukhi Panesar and Keegan Pereira helped Ireland to establish a 3-1 lead before Michael Robson and Shane O’Donoghue failed to convert, leaving the shoot-out score locked at 3-3 going into sudden death.
A mistake from Ireland’s John McKee gave Adam Froese the opportunity to seal victory and he made no mistake as Canada celebrated in dramatic circumstances.
Ireland coach Mark Tumilty, in charge of his first major matches, said: “We celebrated as if we’d won it. It’s a very tough call. I wouldn’t see too many of those in any level of hockey, to be honest with you – for that to be given.
“But we had our chances in the shootout as well. Fitzy (David Fitzergald) did very well in goals. That’s the way shootouts go. Listen, they’re potluck. That’s the way it goes. It’s not an easy one to take. It’s probably a real low one. Not easy.”
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