England downed by Ireland in bronze medal match

England vs Ireland euros 480 x 290

England 2 (2)
Harry Martin 11 (FG)
Adam Dixon 23 (PC)

Ireland 4 (2)
Shane O’Donoghue 13, 60 (PC, PS)
Alan Sothern 29 (PC)
Eugene Magee 39 (PC)

England slipped to a 4-2 defeat in the bronze medal match at the Unibet EuroHockey Championships. A double from Shane O’Donoghue and penalty corner goals from Alan Sothern and Eugene Magee did the damage as Ireland made history, winning their first-ever European medal. England hit back through Harry Martin and Adam Dixon but in a hectic encounter, Bobby Crutchley’s team could not find the goals to turn the tide.

England started strongly. Dan Fox broke into the circle and found Sam Ward whose cross-shot was half cleared by David Harte. It fell to Nick Catlin who shot on the turn but Harte was there again with a good save.

Barry Middleton and Ashley Jackson linked up well and started to cause Ireland problems but the final pass didn’t quite come off. With 11 minutes gone it was Jackson who produced a telling intervention. He won the ball high up the field and fed it into Middleton. He found Harry Martin and the No9 applied the finish from close range to give England the lead.

Ireland leveled the scores from a well-taken penalty corner by Shane O’Donoghue just two minutes later, ensuring it was 1-1 at the quarter time break.

In the second quarter Chris Griffiths’ industry was rewarded with a chance. The No25 robbed the defender and cut in from the right. Harte rushed from his goal and smothered well to keep the scores level. Jackson won England a penalty corner with nine minutes to go to half time. With everyone expecting the No7 to take the shot on, instead Sam Ward took the honours. His effort thudded into Harte’s body with the rebound flashing over the bar from Griffiths.

England forced another corner from the next passage of play for an off the ball foul by Peter Caruth, for which the Ireland man was shown a yellow card. Jackson took the shot this time with the ball crashing against the post and Davey Harte somehow scrambling the rebound away. The pressure mounted and England won another corner and this time they got the goal they had threatened. Jackson’s pass was deflected in beautifully by Dixon to make it 2-1.

Ireland earned themselves a penalty corner in the dying embers of the first half after good work by John Jackson. They ran a different routine with Eugene Magee setting up Alan Sothern who squeezed the ball through George Pinner to make it 2-2 at the half way stage.

Ireland had the first clear chance of the second half. Magee stepped up from another set piece to give them the lead with a precise flick into the top corner. England hit back with a quickly taken free hit teeing up David Condon but his shot on the turn went wide. The hosts squandered a penalty corner opportunity with a minute left in the quarter and so went into the final 15 minutes trailing 3-2.

England were camped inside the Irish half for the majority of the final 15 minutes but some brave last-ditch defending kept the home side at bay. England won a penalty corner with six minutes remaining. Jackson went for goal and it clipped a defender on the way in, deceiving Harte and finding the net. Umpire Marcello Servetto disallowed the goal and England were still behind. Bobby Crutchley took off Pinner with three minutes left as a last throw of the dice. Ward won them a penalty corner with 90 seconds remaining. Jackson shot but Harte got a glove on it. Ireland broke free in the dying seconds and with no goalkeeper a desperate lunge resulted in a penalty stroke for a foul on Kirk Shimmins. Mark Gleghorne went in goal for it and faced O’Donoghue but the Ireland man scored to make it 4-2 and seal the win.

The tournament comes to its conclusion tomorrow as England’s women take on Netherlands in the final of the Unibet EuroHockey Championships live on BBC 2, Sunday 30 August at 16:00.

Quotes – Dan Fox, England

“Whatever I say about us, we cannot take credit away from the Ireland side. They’ve done brilliantly this tournament. We’re so disappointed because we gave them corners too easily and we didn’t defend them well enough. On a given day, sometimes your corners fire but ours didn’t today. We had a lot of possession we couldn’t make it pay off in the final third. We’re really gutted how it’s gone today. It’s a difficult part of tournament hockey, playing in bronze medal matches when you were so close to playing for gold. We want to play our best hockey every game and we were set up to do that today, we just didn’t quite execute our skills in the final third.

We have 11 months till Rio and this will drive us on. We’re not far off as we showed against Germany but we need to improve and hopefully this will motivate us to do that.”