Both the Irish boys and girls Under-19 teams made it with three wins from four in their respective Four Nations series competitions over the weekend with impressive performances against England in Lilleshall.
For the boys, their Saturday 5-1 success against the English was one of the biggest scorelines for Ireland at any grade as Simon Lowry’s outfit produced an outstanding display.
In a fast-pressing performance from the outset, they raced into a 1-0 lead via Waterford man Ian Balding’s powerful drag-flick. Ben Ryder swooped to chip the second into the roof of the goal when he nipped in behind the last defender.
Evan Jennings came to the fore in the second half, setting up Josh Filgas with a square pass following a powerful run. Jennings’ deft deflection extended the advantage to 4-0 and while England got one back in the final quarter, Jennings provided another first time finish for his double and 5-1.
The result follows two wins over Wales last week with their one setback a frustrating 3-2 defeat to England on Friday. After a cagey opening, the deadlock was finally broken by England midway through the second quarter.
It wasn’t long before Ireland got a deserved equaliser following some sustained possession high in the England half. Balding’s drag flick was saved but the rebound was batted into the net by James Maginnis.
— Hockey Ireland (@irishhockey) July 18, 2021
Ireland continued to pressure England, but a quick counter-attack found them lacking cover at the back and the resulting penalty stroke, on the half time whistle, by Luis Cuttle left Ireland trailing 2-1 at half time.
After the break it was all Ireland, but the equaliser proved elusive, with a number of balls flashing past the back post and an England goalkeeper who was on fire against the Irish penalty corner attack.
Late in the third quarter a slick move down the left, left England with a back post tip-in to extend their lead further. Ireland reacted well by scoring immediately in Q4 with Rex Dunlop deflecting at the penalty sport from a well-polished short corner routine.
As such, after that disappointment, coach Lowry was delighted with how his side bounced back.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better reaction in game two this weekend,” said Lowry. “The guys acquitted themselves brilliantly and played with real desire and intensity and the way we moved the ball was top class.
“We were disappointed not to come out of game one with a result because we played well for much of the game and created a lot of chances, particularly in the second half.
“After Friday it was nice to see our attacking quality shine through. It was a real team effort from both players and staff to pick ourselves up and go again.”
The side has been working with a panel of 34 players for this development series and so it was a nice way for some to sign off this phase of their underage careers.
“For some of these guys it is their last involvement in the Under-19 program, and it is great to have been able to finish with a win like that, particularly after the 18 months that we’ve had. It’s all to play for now and we can’t wait to face Scotland in UUJ next weekend.”
That is a reference to a title showdown with Scotland with two games next weekend at Jordanstown.
On the girls side, Ireland back up their two big wins over Wales last week with four points out of six from their trip to England. Emma Paul’s first half goal gave the Little Green Army a 1-0 success on Friday with the strike coming following consistent pressure which led to a penalty corner that the captain slotted away.
And they carried that momentum into the second half to make it three wins from three in the competition with three clean sheets at that stage.
In so doing, it means Ireland’s senior, Under-23 and Under-19 female sides have all beaten either Great Britain or England in the past four months.
Saturday did see their perfect defensive record breached when Tamsin Cookman scored from a penalty corner in game two on Saturday morning for England.
— Ireland JAG Girls (@IreGirlsJAG) July 17, 2021
And it remained that way until early in the final quarter before a flurry of penalty corners ended with Nicola Torrans – younger sister of Sarah who is currently in Tokyo with the Olympic squad – pouncing on a penalty corner chance at the back post.
It meant a 1-1 draw with a point each to their name but the English hosts went on to edge a shoot-out after the game which earned them an extra bonus point.
That leaves Ireland on 10 points from 12 available to date with England in second on eight points. It meansGavin Groves’ side are in pole position with two games against Scotland to come at Jordanstown.
Boys Under-19 Four Nations
Friday: England 3 (T Graves, L Cuttle, R Wilson) Ireland 2 (J Maginnis, R Dunlop)
Saturday: England 1 (W Petter) Ireland 5 (E Jennings 2, I Balding, B Ryder, J Filgas)
Girls Under-19 Four Nations
Friday: England 0 Ireland 1 (E Paul)
Saturday: England 1 (T Cookman) Ireland 1 (N Torrans), England win bonus point shoot-out 3-2