IRL Men secure historic back-to-back win against Belgium in FIH Pro League


Ireland recorded back-to-back wins over Belgium by beating them by 4 goals to 1 today, for the first time since 1993. Belgium took the lead with a deflected Antoine Kina goal in 9th minute. Ireland equalised through Ben Johnson in the 17th minute, and he got a second in the 31st minute to put Ireland 2-1 up. Jeremy Duncan touched home a Sean Murray shot for 3-1 in the 44th minute. Ben Walker converted a penalty corner in the 54th minute to make it 4-1.

This game, which was delayed as a result of a thunder, lightning and hailstorm on Sunday afternoon eventually got under way over an hour late. Whether the delay affected one team more than another on the day is hard to tell but both teams suffered from the same issue. Whoever reacted better to the strange circumstances of the day were probably going to benefit.

In the first eight minutes or so played in glorious sunshine Ireland forced two penalty corners without scoring, Loick Van Doren saving Luke Madeley’s efforts well. Belgium only had one penalty corner which Loick Luypaert shot and Jamie Carr saved comfortably with his right foot. The breakthrough came in the 9th minute when Tanguy Cosyns and Antoine Kina combined with the latter’s cross cum shot deflected past Jamie Carr by one of his own players to give Belgium a 1-0 lead. Ireland responded when Jeremy Duncan cut into the Belgium semi-circle and won a penalty corner. Luke Madeley’s drag flick was saved by Van Doren. Belgium held on to that lead to the end of the first quarter.

Ireland began the second quarter strongly and Ben Walker cut into the Belgian semi-circle and passed to John McKee whose cross was finished to the net by Ben Johnson to make it 1-1 in the 17th minute. Belgium had another penalty corner in the 23rd minute but Alexander Hendrickx’s drag flick was saved by Jamie Carr.

In the 27th minute Jeremy Duncan won a penalty corner for Ireland hitting a Belgian defender’s foot inside the semi-circle. But they had to ask for a video referral to get it. Shane O’Donoghue’s drag flick was saved by Loick Van Doren the Belgian goalkeeper. With 17 seconds remaining in the first half Belgium won a penalty corner. Alexander Hendrickx’s drag flick came back off the upright and the hooter sounded at half-time it was 1-1.

Ireland got off to a very good start in the third quarter. Sean Murray won possession in midfield and found Ben Walker with a long pass. Walker cut inside the semi-circle and found Ben Johnson who scored to give Ireland a 2-1 lead in the 31st  minute. Belgium enjoyed greater possession over the next 10 minutes or so but Ireland absorbed the pressure comfortably.

The next goal when it came was an Irish goal. Sean Murray broke from deep and went on a mazy run and cut into the Belgian semi-circle, his shot on goal was touched past Van Doren by Jeremy Duncan to give Ireland a 3-1 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Ireland had a two-goal cushion at the start of the fourth quarter, Belgium started strongly, Victor Wegenez had a shot well saved by Jamie Carr who also cleared the danger with his stick in the 47th minute. Ireland launched an attack which resulted in Ben Walker being upended. Ireland looked for a video referral for a dangerous deflection. The video umpire upheld the call, and a penalty corner was awarded. From the penalty corner it went to Daragh Walsh whose shot towards goal was finished to the net in the 54th minute. Belgium referred the goal to the video umpire for obstruction, but the video umpire said the goal was fine. Ireland were unlucky not to have a fifth in the 56th minute Ben Walker’s shot was brilliantly saved by Van Doren. Ireland win 4-1 and are off the bottom of the FIH PRO LEAGUE albeit temporarily.

The next time the two teams will meet is on July 27 in Paris in the opening Pool B at the Olympics.

Speaking after the match Ireland’s Head Coach Mark Tumilty said:

“It was a very pleasing performance to end this block of the FIH PRO LEAGUE. The guys definitely implemented what we asked of them to today. Three excellent team goals, the fourth one was a bit scrappy, but we’ll take it. The lads have shown a lot more confidence to play at this level and look forward to taking on Germany and GB next week.”

“Many people in World Hockey would have thought, after we came away from India, that we might not have got any points in this (FIH PRO) League but here we are on 6 points and we left some points behind against Argentina, particularly in the second game. We’ve got excellent staff, the work Neville and Ash put in on the pitch, the work Eoin does in the physical preparation and the work of Raymond Geddes, all of them and the players finally getting rewards for the hard work done.”

“It’s been a successful week. Let’s see what we can get out of next week. We have played against GB a number of times and Germany will definitely be a challenge. Hopefully there will be good Irish support in Lee Valley because these guys deserve it. We’ve made great progress and hopefully can continue that next week. It’s very good to get the win.”


IRELAND:- Jamie Carr (GK); Luke Madeley; Tim Cross; Shane O’Donoghue; Mark McNellis; Shane Murray (C); Daragh Walsh; Ben Walker; Michael Robson; Jeremy Duncan; Ben Johnson  SUBS USED:–  Mark Ingram (GK); John Mc Kee [4 mins]; Matthew Nelson  7 mins]; Kyle Marshall [7 mins]; Peter McKibbin [5 mins]; Peter Brown [5 mins]; Nicholas Page [4mins]

BELGIUM:– Loic Van Doren (GK); Thibau Stockbroekx; John-John Dohnen; Florent Van Aubel; Gauthier Boccard; Alexander Hendrickx; Felix DeNayer (C); Antoine Kina; Loick Luypaert; Maxime Van Oost; Nelson Onana: SUBS USED:- Vincent Vanasch (GK); Tommy Willems [5 mins]; Nichoalas De Kerpel [4 mins]; Victor Wegenez [4 mins]; Tobias Biekens [4 mins]; Tanguy Cosyns [3 mins]; Olivier Biekens [8 mins]