Ireland men's hockey side face play-off to reach Olympics

Ireland men's hockey players before their Olympic qualifier against Spain.
Ireland men's hockey players before their Olympic qualifier against Spain. COPYRIGHT WORLDSPORTPICS FRANK UIJLENBROEK (Frank Uijlenbroek/Frank Uijlenbroek)

Ireland men’s hockey are “where we expected to be” as they face Korea in a third-place play-off match as they attempt to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Hosts Spain scored twice in the third quarter to seal a 2-0 win in Valencia and their own place in France leaving Ireland head coach Mark Tumilty to comment:

“We came in at half-time level which was where we had wanted to be. But Spain came at us strongly in quarter three and took their two goals from penalty corners and got the better of us. They tend to do well in quarter three in matches.”

“Spain deserved their win, even though we had a few chances to score in the final quarter. Going into this tournament based on World rankings we thought we might have to go to the bronze medal match, and we are where we expected to be and have prepared for that.”

“Korea will offer a different challenge. We need to be more clinical at taking our opportunities in front of goal if we are going to achieve our target”.

The Irish seemed to have the weather on their side as the game took place in a wet and windy Valencia this morning.

A close and tightly fought first quarter produced few if any goal scoring opportunities but whatever chances there were both defences coped with admirably. Spain looked potentially very threatening on their counter-attack and Ireland had to be on top of their defensive game to keep them at bay. While both goalkeepers were called into action it was only on a handful of occasions.

It was no surprise that the second quarter produced no goals although the home side had the better opportunities Ireland did have one penalty corner which Spanish goalkeeper Calzado cleared. Spain were actually on the attack as the halftime hooter sounded Spain 0 Ireland 0.

The third quarter saw the home side in the ascendancy, and they took the lead from a penalty corner in the 35th minute, initial effort was blocked at the post by Lee Cole. Rafael Vilallonga reacted quickest to the rebound to score. Spain1 Ireland 0. Marc Miralles converted a second penalty corner in the 39th minute to put them 2-0 up.

IRELAND:  David Harte, Luke Madeley, Shane O’Donoghue, Tim Cross, Lee Cole, Daragh Walsh, Nicholas Page, Sean Murray (C), John McKee, Jeremy Duncan, Michael Robson

SUBS USED: Matthew Nelson, Kyle Marshall, Peter McKibbin, Jonathan Lynch, Sam Hyland, Ben Johnson.