060s Home Nations Report Ireland 2018

                                               

This year the championships were held on 11th to 13th May in lovely city of Dublin at Three Rocks Rovers Hockey Club. Our first game was against the Scots in the late afternoon thus allowing players to get to the ground in good time since we were travelling in from different parts of England. The mode of transport was either flying in or travelling by ferry etc. But with unexpected heavy rains and storms all flights were delayed up to 4/5 hours and more. That meant that some of the players at the hotel and literally had to just ‘dump’ their luggage, leave for the ground immediately after their arrival. Some of the players were so late that they had to travel straight to the ground. But we managed just in of time to assemble a squad.

Against the Scots, as expected, they defended deep and did not allow us any room to express ourselves. The score at the half time was 0-0. We knew once we got into our stride and got the travel out of system, we will score, it was just matter of time. As predicted we made some minor changes and scored very early after half time, 1-0. The Scots began to have difficulty ‘man to man’ us and within minutes we scored second and followed by the third. Scots had no answer to speed on the ball and finishing. All goals were score from ‘open play’. Gurmail Singh scored two and Conrad Ray scored one after a ‘text book’ move.

Our second game was against the Welsh. We thought perhaps that would be slightly ‘easier’ game. We changed the formation and decided to play with four forwards in order to improve our goal average. But the opposition were certainly ‘fully charged’ up and were up for it. From the whistle they ran and chased and seemed very determined to spoil the party. They were some tackles that perhaps should have been penalised by the referee. We had difficulty controlling the ball or the game and struggled. We lost our structure and in the second quarter we decided to go back to usual formation and that seem to work, and Welsh were rattled. We had a few corners and just before the half time Mark Gibbon struck a rasping shot passed the keeper,1-0. Our pressure paid off and from an open one of their players stooped illegally on the goal line and Rod Naughalty stepped and put the flick away low left which the keeper could not keep out.

Our third game was against the host – Ireland. The met early and must have discussed their tactics in great length as they were in the changing rooms for a long time until we informed them that they were occupying the changing rooms that was allocated to us! There was a lot at stake. There certainly had a great home support. The crowd was loud and were vociferous Their had scored the same number of goals as us and had conceded none. It was all to play for. They played very direct hockey and their forwards had some speed and skill, but our defence was resolute, and we defended well, especially in the early ‘exchange of blows’. We sparred for a bit but after first quarter we raised the pace. The pressure was building and had something had to give. In a goal melee Chris Rule scored but that is challenged by Henry Robinson but we do not video reply to establish that fact. We continued the build up and were playing some good hockey. Our approach towards the ‘D’ was good and we used the width and the Irish did not seem to cope. After barrage of attacks and short corners the ball was stopped at the line by one of their players and penalty flick was awarded. Rod Naughalty who had scored against the Welsh stepped up with confidence, but completely got his footing wrong and the keeper had no problem stopping a weak shot. We still continued to press and had a few chances but did not capitalise on them. Then after a superb through pass by captain Mark Precious to Graham Skinner, who very smartly put the ball passed the keeper with a ‘reverse stick. 2-0 to us. The crowd went silent and our handful of supporters could now be heard. The game ended but we could not manage to score the third goal.

The team gelled well both off and off the field. It was certainly an enjoyable weekend and a good build up towards the all- important World Cup in Barcelona.