Sunday, June 23, 2024

Ireland’s Hockey Pro League survival rests on Great Britain ‘crunch’ clash

London — Ireland wil relish a “crunch” clash against Great Britain on Thursday night as they bid to stave off Pro League relegation.

Ireland succumbed 3-0 to Germany but improved considerably from their 7-0 defeat on Sunday against the world champions. 

Ireland hadn’t beaten Germany since 2018 and they made it four matches without scoring as Die Honamas circle prowess ultimately did for the Green Machine in their penultimate test match before the Paris Olympics, which for large portions of this encounter had looked like another statement upset on the cards following their Antwerp showings.

It all means that Ireland must beat Great Britain and hope that Spain come undone in their final matches to stay in the global league for a second season.

Kyle Marshall, who copped a Gonzo Peillat bullet on his arm, said: “We were probably the better of the sides in the circle but when it came to crunch time, they came out on top when it mattered. 

The dangerous Moritz Ludwig and Ben Walker go for the ball PIC: Worldsportpics/ Will Palmer

“It’s a nice place to find ourselves in [against GB] and we will learn a bit about ourselves. Crunch games could mean potential Olympic quarter-finals. This is something to look forward to and the group will grasp that.”

Gifting too many turnover balls during their weekend drubbing, Ireland tightened up and held possession well after the early salvos, showing no sign of the turnover gifts they handed Germany on Sunday. Lee Cole, dangerous at the PC, and Peter McKibbin returned to the side.

But it was Germany who took the lead in typical fashion. Peillat sent a flick into post man Marshall’s elbow in the 36th minute and Timm Herzbruch flicked past David Harte from the penalty stroke.

As the third quarter closed, Peillat, at 31 still one of the world’s best dragflickers, beat Harte with an accurate corner flick into the backboard. 

Then, with 60 seconds left, Alex Stadler twice saved from an Irish penalty corner. Germany then broke clear and, seconds later, Thies Prinz had the ball in the net.

Earlier, Constantin Staib blocked an Irish counter, gallivanted up field and reversed through Harte. It was a fine solo goal only to be ruled out for a back stick.

Ireland coach Mark Tumilty said: “There was huge progress, we were excellent in the first-half and had some of the best hockey we’ve played. At this level we are finding out what you do in the circle really counts. It was another tough lesson.

“If we can get three points against GB it might give us a chance of staying in the Pro League. GB have been really clinical and it’s a challenge we have to embrace.

“If we can stay in the Pro League it will be huge for our programme.”

Total Hockey

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