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Green Machine land primary objective with 6-0 win over Croatia

Men’s EuroHockey Championship II
Ireland 6 (J McKee 2, S O’Donoghue 2, S Murray, J Duncan) Croatia 0

Ireland eased into the semi-finals of the men’s EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno and a World Cup qualifier spot into the bargain after they saw off Croatia with plenty to spare.

Needing a draw to advance, Sean Murray’s early goal set them on their way and while it took a while for the insurance goals to arrive, the Green Machine never looked in much danger after that.

Shane O’Donoghue put Ireland two clear at half-time; a second half double from Johnny McKee and more goals from O’Donoghue and Jeremy Duncan completed the rout.

For coach Mark Tumilty, it was very much a case of job done, responding well from Tuesday’s disappointing draw with Italy.

“Delighted; that was our main goal coming into the tournament to give ourselves a chance at that World Cup qualifier,” Tumilty said.

“I am pleased with the performance, bouncing back well after yesterday [against Italy]. That was a tough one to take but thought the guys worked hard today and it was a good game all round.

Captain Murray concurred, adding: “Very chuffed. It was a great bounce back from the lads, especially after Italy which wasn’t our finest performance. The main job was to get that World Cup qualifier spot and we have that and can now look forward to the weekend.

“We hadn’t started fast in the other games and knew we needed to be on the money from the beginning.

“They had a couple of tight games where they were run off their feet and, with back-to-back games, we wanted to get ahead early and then try and pull away. We maintained that throughout and the result took care of itself.”

The opening goal came from a lovely interchange on the left baseline with Jonny McKee hopping the ball out of a tackle and nicking the ball into the middle where Murray cracked home.

After that, it was a matter of time before the lead was extended as Croatia – in their first tournament at this level and the lowest ranked side at 47th – were forced to absorb a huge amount of pressure.

Goalkeeper Hrvoje Fijucek brilliantly denied Ben Walker on a couple of occasions while a trio of corners were also kept out, the third of which saw O’Donoghue slam a shot off the base of the post.

O’Donoghue, though, was not to be held at bay for too long as he doubled the lead as half-time closed in, a trademark corner goal bringing him his 113th international strike.

Two to the good at half-time, the shackles came off in the second half. A flurry of action saw Ireland force a string of blocks in the first 43 seconds which culminated in Jeremy Duncan tipping in Neal Glassey’s cross for 3-0.

McKee added the next at the end of a stunning counter-attack, created by Michael Robson’s 40-metre drive through the middle. The Banbridge man also guided in a Mark McNellis cross early in the fourth quarter for the fifth goal and O’Donoghue got his second with a ripper of a reverse-stick strike.

It means a semi-final on Friday and there are also important ranking points on the table if Ireland can grab two more wins. The chance to move above 13th ranked France – who have completed their Euro series this summer – and become the top seed for the World Cup qualifier, however, looks just out of reach.

“I think it will be difficult to go above France because of the draw against Italy by my calculations,” Tumilty

“But with the draw for the Euro qualifiers next summer also to think of, [the points] could be important but it is not something that overly concerns me.

“We have to deal with whatever comes along and we have seen in this tournament all the teams are competitive. Each game in those qualifiers will be a big challenge but, for now, the focus is on Friday to do what we can to get to the final and a better chance of hosting the European qualifiers next summer.”

Ireland: J Milliken, T Cross, J McKee, N Glassey, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, P McKibbin, J Duncan, M Robson, B Nelson
Subs: D Walsh, K O’Dea, M McNellis, B Walker, F Gibson, I Stewart

Croatia: H Fijucek, C Zec, M Mucic, Z Vuk, B Bachmann, F Zlimen, J Krleza, L M Bachmann, T Premilovac, G Fujs, A Fujs
Subs: P Markovic, I Bagur, F Zlatar, J Damjanic, F Zlatar, L Wehr

Umpires: G Cunningham (SCO), F Weiland (AUT)

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Ireland’s men held by combative Italians in Gniezno

Men’s EuroHockey Championships II

Ireland 1 (S O’Donoghue) Italy 1 (F Sior)

Ireland were held at bay to a 1-1 draw by a well-organised Italy, leaving the Green Machine on four points from six after day two of the EuroHockey Championships II in Gniezno, Poland.

Shane O’Donoghue’s 112th international goal had Ireland buzzing in the seventh minute but a quick reply from Francois Sior in the 13th minute meant all the scoring took place in the first quarter. Thereafter, it was a maze of patience as the Italians – ranked eight places below Ireland in 22nd – defended deep and resolutely to offer up limited chances.

The result leaves both sides on four points after two games with Ireland knowing a win of any description against world number 40 side Croatia will see them through to the semi-finals and a confirmed place in the World Cup qualifiers.

“Credit to the Italians, they defended well, stuck to their guns and then went for the long high ball while we didn’t hit fourth or fifth gear,” was O’Donoghue’s assessment.

“We didn’t play with the same level of aggression to the game against Poland. There were some sticky patches which we had to weather and we played good stuff at times but the bounce of the ball didn’t go our way.”

After a slightly slow Irish start, conceding a second minute penalty corner, Ireland soon found a fruitful avenue of attack, O’Donoghue’s accurate crossfield overheads causing plenty of danger.

From the left wing, he often picked out Tim Cross overlapping down the right and it produced Ireland’s first corner from which O’Donoghue cracked home his 112th international goal with a low drag-flick in the seventh minute.

But the lead was short-lived as a flurry of Italian attacks ended with a loose clearance falling straight to Fancois Sior who unleashed a rocket into the roof of the goal.

The second quarter was incredibly tight with few sights on goal as Italy sat deep, looking to counter while the Green Machine enjoyed more possession but found the defence hard to unpick. Again, the O’Donoghue-Cross link-up yielded a corner but the chance was repelled while a

The second half was more open with Ian Stewart’s silky skills almost unlocking the door while a fast counter between Ben Nelson and Cross ended with a shot charged down.

Jeremy Duncan cracked one into the backboard but an earlier free-out was called, adding to the frustration. A third Irish corner deflected high from O’Donoghue’s powerful flick into Michael Robson but was deemed dangerous and it proved the last major opening.

While the game stretched, both defences were well controlled, picking off neat tackles in their respective circle. The post-match body language suggested Italy were much the happier with the outcome – their first result from their last six meetings with Ireland, dating back to 2005 – with O’Donoghue said there was plenty to take from the tie for the young line-up.

“We had a few corners which we needed to capitalise on but this is tournament hockey and we have to learn from it. It is never smooth sailing and you never know what to expect.

“They play their style which is frustrating to play against. I don’t think they caused us too much damage but, from our end, we didn’t have create enough chances.”

Ireland have a quick turnaround with Croatia – playing at this level for the first time – are next on Wednesday afternoon at 4.45pm (Irish time).

“Tomorrow, it is important we don’t go hell for leather from the start. It is important we stick to the gameplan; we know it works from the Poland game,” O’Donoghue continued.

“All the teams are here for the same thing and want to win it, get that gold medal and move up the world rankings. We will get back to basics, not make those mistakes, get our forwards more into the game, take some chances and we will be fine. We will research the Croatians and go into it with good belief we can get the job done.”

Ireland: J Milliken, T Cross, J McKee, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, M McNellis, P McKibbin, M Robson, B Walker, B Nelson

Subs: D Walsh, K O’Dea, N Glassey, J Duncan, F Gibson, I Stewart

Italy: F Padovani, M Garbaccio, N Mondo, A Nunez, Julian Montone, T Keenan, J Munafo, F Sior, M Mondo, F Harte, M Amorosini

Subs: J Ortega, Juan Montone, D Arosio, C Brocco, F Blom, L Stramazzo

Umpires: T Meissner (GER), F Weiland (AUT)



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Last-gasp McKee winner crowns dramatic week for Green Machine

Men’s EuroHockey Championship II
Poland 1 (K Sudol) Ireland 2 (B Walker, J McKee)

Johnny McKee scrambled in a dramatic winner late on Sunday night to earn Ireland a huge win over EuroHockey Championship II hosts Poland in Gniezno, touching in Shane O’Donoghue’s cross with just 18 seconds to go.

It crowned a dramatic week for Mark Tumilty’s Green Machine in which the squad lost both Jonny Lynch and Lee Cole from the originally named panel prior to departure and then were forced to quarantine after a close contact ping following their flight into Poland.

It meant Neal Glassey and Fergus Gibson – bringing the list of debutants up to seven – came into the fold.

As such, there was massive relief when McKee got that last ditch winner with coach Tumilty admitting he hurt his leg in the celebrations.

And he had nothing but praise for his revamped side for whom James Milliken, Ben Nelson, Mark McNellis, Kyle Marshall, Kevin O’Dea and Ian Stewart all debuted.

“When the majority of the team got out of quarantine, it’s one of the things we said. The maturity the guys have shown this week has been incredible,” Tumilty said.

“It goes back to last Saturday when we lost Johnny Lynch. There have been distractions; some of them hadn’t been on the pitch yet before today. It wasn’t perfect but the senior players and [assistant coach] Jason Klinkradt looked after them really well. Guys have handled it really well.

A young group, they showed a lot of character to hang in there in the end. We defended well and James Milliken was excellent in goals. Shane O’Donoghue produced that great bit of skill on the left-hand side and Jonny McKee got the winner.”

Poland came on strong in the opening minutes with Milliken forced into an early save from Mikolaj Gumny while Sean Murray almost turned into his own net but reacted brilliantly to dive full-length and flip the ball off the line.

From there, Ireland grew into it, forcing Maciej Pacanowski into action before taking the lead in the 15th minute. It came from the second phase of the first corner, an upright revese-stick cross falling to Ben Walker to guide home.

Jeremy Duncan, O’Donoghue and Walker all forced good saves from the goalkeeper as Ireland improved through the second quarter.

But there were rocked when a lengthy crash ball from Michal Kasprzyk was redirected by Krystian Sudol into the bottom corner.

It set up a grandstand finish with Ireland twice going within inches of the lead with Stewart inches away from a dream debut while Poland’s Wojciech Rutkowski had a goal chalked off with two minutes left.

Ireland reacted brilliantly to that reprieve and grabbed their winner as O’Donghue got in down the left and flicked across goal, McKee putting out a stick which knocked it home.

It puts the Green Machine in great shape and a win on Tuesday against Italy (4.45pm, Irish time) – who beat Croatia 4-1 with three goals in the last ten minutes – could put them on the verge of this week’s first target, a ticket to the World Cup qualifiers.

“It’s nice to have that kind of reward out there and if we can get it early, it could give us some freedom for the rest of the tournament,” Tumilty added.

“But Italy will be very tough and, actually, Croatia looked very good today as well. We have to be better than today but we will grow.

Ireland: J Milliken, T Cross, J McKee, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, M McNellis, P McKibbin, J Duncan, M Robson, B Nelson
Subs: D Walsh, N Glassey, K O’Dea, B Walker, F Gibson, I Stewart

Poland: M Pacanowski, D Kotulski, G Jarzynski, J Kurowski, R Pawlak, J Janicki, P Pawlak, J Chumenczuk, W Rutkowski, M Kasprzyk, M Lange
M Glowacki, T Bembenek, M Gumny, M Koperski, K Sudol, M Nowakowski

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Irish men’s squad adapts after close contact call

In line with Polish Covid-19 counter-measures, a number of playing members of the Hockey Ireland’s senior men’s squad are currently in quarantine.

The players were identified as potential close contacts while en route to Poland ahead of the EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno which begins on Sunday evening.

Ireland’s first match of the tournament against Poland will go ahead as planned at 8pm (7pm Irish time).

Separately, prior to departure, Lee Cole was unable to travel to the tournament. Fergus Gibson subsequently travelled in his stead.

** All of Ireland’s EuroHockey Championship II games will be live streamed on www.eurohockeytv.org

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Under-21 women’s series raises curtain on new season

This weekend and next will see a series of high quality challenge matches with a focus on development leading into the Irish Under-21/Junior Green Army selection.

It started on Friday with a training game between Munster and Leinster and continues with Connacht facing Munster at Rosbrien at 3pm.

Sunday sees Connacht take on Leinster at Athlone before the focus switches to Abbotstown with Leinster meeting Connacht next Friday (4pm) and Munster the day after (2pm).

The series is primarily focused on bringing on the Under-20 age group who have moved out of the Under-19/18 age group and will give those players a chance to develop and be considered for selection into the national Under-21 programme.

The competition is not a formal interpros and scores will not be recorded into the record books. Ulster have opted to not take part this season with a selection from the province taking part in a UK schools event scheduled for early September.

A women’s Under-20 interprovincial competition is scheduled to be played during the season with matches in October, November, December and January.

** To read more about the new Interprovincial calendar for 2021/22, click here

Under-21 challenge series – schedule
Friday, August 13:
Munster v Leinster, 6pm, Garryduff – training game
Saturday, August 14: Connacht v Munster, 3pm, Rosbrien – Irish U-21 selection match
Sunday, August 15: Connacht v Leinster, Athlone – training game
Friday, August 20: Leinster v Connacht, 4pm, Abbotstown – Irish U-21 selection match
Saturday, August 21: Munster v Leinster, 2pm, Abbotstown – Irish U-21 selection match

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Green Machine excited to make competitive return in Poland

** All of Ireland’s EuroHockey Championship II games will be live streamed on www.eurohockeytv.org

Twenty-two months on, Irish men’s head coach Mark Tumilty is excited to finally hit the turf on Sunday night with a first capped fixture since November 2019.

The Green Machine face hosts Poland at 7pm (Irish time) on day one of the EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno with a new look panel with six players set to make their debut.

Among them is Kevin O’Dea who was called into the main panel earlier this week with Jonny Lynch having to step out at short notice. It means the Cork man – who completed his Leaving Cert earlier this summer – will become the first Munster player to make his debut since Julian Dale in 2016.

He is joined in the line-up by fellow uncapped players James Milliken, Kyle Marshall, Ben Nelson, Ian Stewart and Mark McNellis and coach Tumilty is excited to see how they will front up.

“With Covid, it has been a strange 16 to 18 months but very enjoyable and that’s down to the players,” he said.

“To get guys capped, to get guys into competitive international hockey is why we have trained and worked so hard. It’s been a long time coming around and obviously we have got the first chance to get out there since those Canada games. I’d like to get that out the road and move on!”

This summer, Ireland have won two uncapped series against Scotland and also have beaten a Great Britain development panel four times, most recently 3-0, 5-3 and 5-2 last weekend at Comber Road.

Now, formalities begin in earnest. The first target at this event is a top five finish from the eight-team competition which would bring a spot at October’s World Cup qualifiers. A strong performance will also boost world ranking points and offer better draw for those qualifiers and next summer’s European Championship qualifiers.

Kevin O’Dea in action against the GB Elite Development squad. Picture: Adrian Boehm

But, while Ireland are the highest ranked side in Poland at 14th in the world, that status is likely to count for little with very few of the contenders in Poland playing many games in the Covid-19 environment.

“Even from our own performances, we don’t have a lot of video so it is hard to evaluate our own level. Younger players coming into these tournaments, some will excel, some may struggle but we accept that and it is all part of what this group has to go through.

“Poland will be in the same bracket, Scotland have new faces… in general, all the teams have different faces and not many will have played many games in the last two years.”

After the Polish game, Ireland will meet Italy and then Croatia, the latter being the first ever meeting between the sides. Austria, Scotland, Switzerland and Ukraine await in the classification matches.

“We have been lucky enough to get some footage of the Polish games. 8pm, Sunday night, no doubt it will be a difficult opening game. I’ve coached against their club sides before and they always have good basics. Italy is a bit of an unknown; they had a very good World League out in Malaysia, beating China and unfortunate to go out against Canada. Croatia are an unknown.

“Most of all, I would be encouraging us to play. We need to go away from the belief simply in hard work and defence. For me, that should be a given. I would like us to play more through the midfield, a shape to allow us to express ourselves and play a more attacking style.

“That’s how I like to play and hopefully people have seen that in teams I have been involved with before. It will take time to get it fully embedded but hopefully we see it over the longer term.

“My goal is for us to consistently try and qualify for the larger tournaments and this is a small step on that road. The objective is to finish in the top five and stay in the World Cup qualification process but there are other goals in relation to our ranking for those qualifiers and also for next summer’s Euro qualifiers. To me, the focus is on the process. If we can do that, we should be grand.”

Ireland squad for EuroHockey Championship II, August 15-21; Gniezno, Poland

Jamie Carr (GK, KHC Leuven, 36)
James Milliken (GK, Lisnagarvey, 0)
Lee Cole (Monkstown, 89)
Kyle Marshall (Old Georgians, 0)
Tim Cross (Annadale, 8)
Mark McNellis (Lisnagarvey, 0)
Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey, 1)
Luke Madeley (KHC Leuven, 21)
Sean Murray (captain, KHC Leuven, 78)
Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne, 190)
Michael Robson (Annadale, 113)
Kevin O’Dea (Cork C of I, 0)
Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers, 51)
Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown, 56)
Ben Walker (Three Rock Rovers, 35)
Ben Nelson (Lisnagarvey, 0)
Ian Stewart (Corinthian, 0)
Johnny McKee (Banbridge, 43)
Travelling reserves: Neal Glassey (Crefelder HTC, 61), Sam Hyland (YMCA, 0)

Pool A fixture schedule (all in Gniezno, Poland – times Irish)
Sunday, August 15: Ireland v Poland, 7pm
Tuesday, August 17: Ireland v Italy, 4.45pm
Wednesday, August 18: Ireland v Croatia, 4.45pm

Friday, August 20/Saturday, August 21 – classification matches

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Six debutants in Irish men’s team for Euros in Poland

A new era for the Irish men’s team formally gets underway in two weeks as Mark Tumilty’s side take on the EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno, Poland from August 15 to 21.

The eight-team competition will be their first capped matches since they missed out on the Tokyo Olympic Games in November 2019 in Vancouver.

Since then, Tumilty has used the past year to regenerate the panel and he brings with him six uncapped players in his central panel of 18 along with two more in the travelling reserves.

The competition is an important one with a top-five finish out of eight offering a ticket to October’s World Cup qualifiers in Wales. A run to the title, meanwhile, would bring vital ranking points as the Road to Paris 2024 comes into view as the Irish men look to make it back to the Olympic stage following their run to Rio in 2016.

“There were many difficult decisions to make when selecting the squad as the enlarged squad had worked extremely hard over the last 12 months,” coach Tumilty explained of the line-up.

“I feel the squad selected has a good balance of experience and youth. The squad, over recent camps against Scotland and GB, is starting to implement our playing style and it has been very pleasing that we have scored a significant number of goals. We will look to build on this as we go through the tournament.

“I look forward to the EuroHockey Championship II. We understand the importance of this tournament in securing a World Cup qualifying place. This tournament is the first step on the pathway to getting the Senior Men back competing in the major competitions on a consistent basis.  We need to start the tournament well and our focus is on the opening game against Poland.”

Four of the new faces hail from Lisnagarvey with Mark McNellis, Jonny Lynch and Ben Nelson included along with goalkeeper James Milliken who was an unused substitute at the 2019 Olympic qualifiers.

Ian Stewart will become the first current Corinthian player to line out for Ireland since Brian Doherty a decade ago and the seventh in total from the Whitechurch club.

Ex-Banbridge man and Irish Under-21 captain Kyle Marshall, meanwhile, is back in green following a spell in the Great Britain development panel, linking up again with his former club coach at Bann. He will play his club hockey with emerging London side Old Georgians in the upcoming season.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, record goalscorer Shane O’Donoghue made a welcome return to the line-up for July’s camp in Glasgow, scoring five times in two games.

Sean Murray, 24, will captain the side and he is among a number of players who lined out in the Belgian league last season, reaching the top eight playoffs with KHC Leuven – the others are goalkeeper Jamie Carr and Luke Madeley.

Lee Cole, Michael Robson, Daragh Walsh, Jeremy Duncan, Ben Walker, Johnny McKee and Tim Cross bring the relative experience to the table while Peter McKibbin will add to the single cap he picked up in 2019.

For the tournament, Tumilty is able to bring two travelling reserves – Cork C of I’s Kevin O’Dea and YMCA’s Sam Hyland.

It follows a productive summer with Ireland winning two separate uncapped series against Scotland and also a trip to Bisham Abbey, putting it up to the Great Britain Olympic team ahead of their departure to Tokyo.

Ian Stewart in action for Ireland against Scotland in an uncapped match, June 2021, Jordanstown

In Poland, Ireland will start off with a date against the hosts – ranked 26th in the world – on Sunday, August 15. They can potentially field former Railway Union and Leinster underage player Mateusz Nowakowski amid a similarly fresh-faced side.

Game two is a date against Italy (ranked 23rd) before concluding the group stages against Croatia, a first meeting between the two countries.

A top two finish will earn a World Cup qualifier ticket and a place in the semi-finals; miss out on those spots and the side will still have a chance to contest for the fifth ticket on offer in the classification matches.

Austria (20th), Switzerland (34th), Ukraine (29th) and Scotland (19th) wait in the wings on the other side of the draw.

Ireland will conclude their preparations with four matches this week against a GB elite development panel. These games take on place on Wednesday, August 4 (7pm) and Thursday, August 5 (7pm) featuring members of the wider panel while the Euro panel will play the same opponents on Saturday, August 7 (3pm) and Sunday, August 8 (11am). This series will be played at Lisnagarvey’s Comber Road venue.

Men’s EuroHockey Championship II (August 15-21, 2021)

Ireland squad (club/caps)
Jamie Carr (GK, KHC Leuven, 36)
James Milliken (GK, Lisnagarvey, 0)
Lee Cole (Monkstown, 89)
Kyle Marshall (Old Georgians, 0)
Tim Cross (Annadale, 8)
Mark McNellis (Lisnagarvey, 0)
Peter McKibbin (Lisnagarvey, 1)
Luke Madeley (KHC Leuven, 21)
Sean Murray (captain, KHC Leuven, 78)
Shane O’Donoghue (Glenanne, 190)
Michael Robson (Annadale, 113)
Jonny Lynch (Lisnagarvey, 0)
Daragh Walsh (Three Rock Rovers, 51)
Jeremy Duncan (Monkstown, 56)
Ben Walker (Three Rock Rovers, 35)
Ben Nelson (Lisnagarvey, 0)
Ian Stewart (Corinthian, 0)
Johnny McKee (Banbridge, 43)

Travelling reserves: Kevin O’Dea (Cork C of I, 0), Sam Hyland (YMCA, 0)

Coach: Mark Tumilty
Assistant coach: Jason Klinkradt
Manager: Neil Irwin
Physiotherapist: Natalie Turner
Physical Trainer: Eoin Cunniffe
Video technician: Ross Willis

Pool A fixture schedule (all in Gniezno, Poland – times Irish)
Sunday, August 15: Ireland v Poland, 7pm
Tuesday, August 17: Ireland v Italy, 4.45pm
Wednesday, August 18: Ireland v Croatia, 4.45pm
Friday, August 20/Saturday, August 21 – classification matches

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Green Army bow out with heads held high in Tokyo

Women’s Olympics – Pool A
Ireland 0 Great Britain 2 (S Townsend, H Martin)

Ireland’s quarter-final hopes came to a formal end as they could not find the victory they needed to continue their involvement in the women’s Olympic hockey competition.

India’s 4-3 win over South Africa earlier in the day left a simple equation against the reigning champions – win or bust.

But, despite a performance packed with resilience and endeavour, Britain kept the Green Army at bay. Susannah Townsend swooped to score from their fifth penalty corner in the second quarter and Irish hopes of a major upset faded when Hannah Martin guided in Ellie Rayer’s exceptional cross a minute into the second half.

Ireland pushed on in the closing quarter, swapping out goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran – who impressed once again – for an extra outfielder for the closing stages. But GB defended resolutely to get the result which also assured their progression to the last eight.

For Ireland, it meant a fifth place finish in the group stages to their maiden Olympic campaign, outside the top four required to advance.

Despite the low-key end, it brought to a close what was a ground-breaking tournament, a first for Irish women’s hockey and, indeed, for women’s team sports at the Games.

It brought a first win last week on debut when South Africa were beaten 2-0, Róisín Upton etching her name into the record books as first Olympic goalscorer.

“It is raw emotion,” Hannah McLoughlin said in the immediate aftermath, looking back on the tournament. “Firstly not getting to the quarter-finals which I think we were more than capable of. Secondly, knowing this is probably a few of our players last games. It is not the send-off any of us wanted to give them.

“But we have broken the ceiling, coming to the Olympics and for those of us fortunate enough to keep going, we want to push on for Paris and then go for quarters and semis.

“Even before coming out here, getting on any plane, regardless of any result, we were bursting with pride for my friends, family and all the people I represent, the other 18 players here with me. The few words we did have after the match, although disappointment was quite a big thing, pride came up an awful lot.

“Although the result was not what we wanted, no one has any regrets about today – we gave it our all, it just wasn’t to be.”

Coach Sean Dancer concurred: “We are here on the field, trying to hold our head up high with what we have achieved and where we have got to. We will take a lot of lessons from the journey and experience. We are competing against the best in the world in the pinnacle of our event.

“For women’s sport and Irish hockey, it’s certainly something to be very proud to be part of. The girls have done all the hard work over the last four years, getting that silver medal and in a good position for this tournament. Very proud of all their performances.

“Those girls should be very proud of the performances they put in and what they have achieved. There will be a few tears and some celebrations over the next few weeks when they get a chance.”

A number of players will likely formally hang up their international sticks in the wake of the event but McLoughlin says they have laid the base for a new agenda and belief.

“The lucky ones of us who get to carry on are just going to use this as motivation to push on, train harder. We have proven we can compete with the best countries in the world. This is my first taste of that and I am going to take that forward, not play with any fear.

“The thing I took from the Olympic Village was how other people are so intrigued by us. We are out on the grass, not caring what we look like, having fun and others start to join in, saying ‘God, we just love the Irish’.

“It’s only this tournament I really notice there is no other team in this tournament or the world who I would want to be part of; one that’s as open, as fun, as accepting as this 19 individuals. The whole experience has been unbelievable.”

Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, S McCay, R Upton, L Tice, C Watkins, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, S Torrans
Subs: H McLoughlin, H Matthews, L Holden, Z Malseed, N Daly

Great Britain: M Hinch, L Unsworth, A Toman, S Jones, S Townsend, S Robertson, E Rayer, G Ansley, H Pearne-Webb, S McCallin, L Owsley
Subs: H Martin, I Petter, L Wilkinson, F Crackles, G Balsdon

Umpires: C de la Fuente (ARG), E Yamada (JPN)

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A win over Great Britain will bring Olympic quarter-final berth

** Ireland v Great Britain  will be broadcast as part of RTE2’s live Olympic coverage from 12.45pm on Saturday, July 31 – note this will be geo-blocked in Northern Ireland; if other sports are showing, coverage continues on the RTE Player

** For viewers in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, Discovery+ will broadcast every game from the Olympics live here: https://www.discoveryplus.co.uk/olympics/sport/field-hockey

** BBC1’s Red Button could potentially carry coverage of the tie, too.

The equation is clear; a win over Great Britain and Ireland can look forward to a first ever Olympic quarter-final in their maiden women’s competition.

That is the challenge following India’s dramatic 4-3 win over South Africa this morning, lifting them to six points with Ireland currently on three points with one game remaining of Pool A.

It marks another big test for Sean Dancer’s side after another rollercoaster week of tournament hockey, the highs of the opening day win over South Africa to the rough finish to Friday’s contest against India.

With a place in the last eight very much a possibility, Deirdre Duke says there is a simple motivation to turn things around quickly.

“That quarter final spot is still up for grabs, so we’re going to have to park [the India game] pretty quick and get ourselves up for a big one,” she said. “It is always a collective effort and we always rally together and we rally around each other. We go again.”

To achieve this latest goal would require another piece of history. Ireland have yet to beat GB in a capped international match although that stat is slightly skewed by the rare nature of fixtures between the sides.

The last meeting came in June 2012 as GB only exists as an international entity in Olympic cycles, reverting to England, Scotland and Wales for the likes of the European Championships and the World Cup.

As such, there are 14 of the English side Ireland faced at the Euros along with Welsh pair Sarah Jones and Leah Wilkinson and Scottish duo Sarah Robertson and Amy Costello.

Ireland did beat GB for the first time in March 2-1 but it was in an uncapped fixture with Roisin Upton scoring the winning goal, ultimately sharing the series with a win, draw and a loss each.

And they will hope to summon that spirit in this vital tie to extend their stay in Tokyo. For GB, barring a five-goal defeat in this tie, they will finish in third place in Pool A and a quarter-final date against Spain.

Ireland v Great Britain – head to head
Overall: 15 meetings
Ireland: 0 wins, 0 draws, 15 losses, goals scored 1, goals against 38
Last meeting: June 2012, Ireland 0 Great Britain 3; Ireland’s only goal came in the 2004 meeting between the sides in Auckland
GB Olympic record: 8th Olympic appearance; reigning champions from 2016; bronze in 2012 and 1992.
Current world ranking (as England): 5th

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India strike late to see Irish quarter hopes go down to the wire

Women’s Olympic Games – Pool A
Ireland 0 India 1 (Navneet Kaur)

Ireland’s quarter-final hopes will go down to the wire as Navneet Kaur’s 57th minute winning goal denied the Green Army what would have been a crucial point at the Oi Stadium.

The deflection from Rani Rampal’s reverse-stick cross finally broke the Irish defences as India eventually took advantage of their large volume of control on the game.

Sean Dancer’s side defended heroically with Ayeisha McFerran producing another slew of brilliant saves. But just as it looked like a vital draw was on the cards, India nicked their winner.

It means Ireland remain in fourth place on three points in the chase for the fourth quarter-final berth, just ahead of India on goal difference. India face bottom side South Africa while Ireland conclude their group against reigning champions Great Britain (12.45pm, Irish time).

The tie was initially delayed for an hour due to a torrential downpour which left the pitch flooded earlier in the day but the camp was in no mood to look to that as a mitigating factor.

“There’s no excuses for it,” said assistant coach Gareth Grundie. “We weren’t at it. They put us on the back foot early and we didn’t really get back into it.

TOKYO – Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Ireland v India (Pool A)
Photo: Ayeisha McFerran and LALREMSIAM.

“Disappointing to concede with so little time left but, on the balance of play, we didn’t deserve it. We weren’t good enough today. Ayeisha was good; our penalty corner defence was good but you can’t go through 60 minutes, give away that much and expect to get a result. We have to accept that, pick ourselves up and go again tomorrow.”

Deirdre Duke – who played her 150th cap – concurred: “That was a game that we needed to win and we didn’t so that’s my overwhelming feeling. Quick turnaround tomorrow. Depending on other results now, that quarter final spot is still up for grabs, so we’re going to have to park this pretty quick and get ourselves up for a big one tomorrow.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team. We are going to have to regroup and take a look at ourselves individually but it is always a collective effort and we always rally together.”

It was a shaky start with Ireland penned back for long periods of the first quarter as the Indians – gunning for revenge for their 2018 World Cup quarter-final elimination – burst into life from the start.

Oustanding penalty corner running from the likes of Sarah Torrans and Katie Mullan charged down the majority of chances from the set piece. Navneet Kaur and Neha both tested Ayeisha McFerran’s pads from play while the Green Army’s big moment was a break-out which ended with Deirdre Duke – in her 150th cap – seeing her strike well blocked.

Quarter two saw Ireland grasp a measure of control, picking up a couple of corners and Anna O’Flanagan’s bullet of a shot was excellent padded away by Savita.

A sequence of five more India corners closed out the first half but with no tangible benefit on the scoreboard as McFerran and Róisín Upton batted away the chances.

And they carried that flow of corners into the second half. Navneet Kaur contrived to miss two huge chances, one from their 13th corner when she swept into the outer boarding of the goal, the next a deflection from Lalremsiami’s clever under the arm pass.

TOKYO – Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Ireland v India (Pool A)
Photo: Irish line up.

As time wore on, with Nicci Daly getting more and more onto the ball, Ireland carved out more meaningful chances. Again, O’Flanagan’s rising shot was saved by Savita and, with five minutes to go, the pair showed down again, the goalkeeper again doing enough to palm out of reach of the rebounding Duke.

The game was becoming more and more open, though, and India profited from the extra space. Rani was found in the right corner and she worked it back to a nice angle to deliver the killer pass for Navneet to touch home the key touch.

Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, H McLoughlin, R Upton, L Tice, C Watkins, K Mullan, A O’Flanagan, S Hawkshaw, D Duke, S Torrans
Subs: S McCay, H Matthews, L Holden, N Carroll, N Daly

India: Savita, Navjot Kaur, G Kaur, D G Ekka, Monika, Nisha, V Katariya, Udita, Navneet Kaur, Rani, Neha
Subs: S Devi, N Pradhan, Lalremsiami, S Pukhrambam, S Tete

Umpires: A Rostron (RSA), A Neumann (AUS)