Men’s EuroHockey Junior Championship II
Ireland 2 (O Kidd, S Ruttle) Italy 1 (F Dionisi Vici)
Scott Ruttle’s winner two minutes from time completed a perfect morning for Irish hockey as the Under-21 men picked up the 2-1 result that assured them of gold and promotion from the EuroHockey Junior Championship II in Plzen Litice.
He finished off a sparkling move via Louis Rowe and Ollie Kidd to set off the celebrations, adding to an early Kidd drag-flick which Felix Dionisi Vici had countered.
It means Ireland will go up to the top tier in 2024 for the first time in seven years and give them a shot at qualifying for the 2025 Junior World Cup.
“We are over the moon and what a great way to do it,” said coach Joe Brennan. “Really proud of this hard-working group of players. They showed real mental maturity in how they approached the week.
“Italy can be really proud of their performance as can Turkey – so many good teams who made this a great battle. There were some tough games and our lads were outstanding and got everything they deserved.”
Going into the final day of competition, as the only unbeaten side, anything other than a heavy defeat would likely have brought promotion and so landing the overall title was the main focus.
They started well with Kidd netting his fourth goal of the tournament in the seventh to start the ball rolling but Italy were rugged and robust in defence and pounced from a rare first half chance to tie things up.
It came from a relatively innocuous left-wing cross which was miscontrolled, allowing Dionisi Vici to steady himself and slot home.
That ramped up the tension in the second half with Ireland not able to make more use of four penalty corners.
Italy, meanwhile, grew more into the contest and were only denied by Ruttle’s heroics on the left post with a pull-shot learned from his youth cricketing days.
And he popped up at the far end to win the contest when Rowe took a quick free and picked out Kidd racing clear on the right. The Lisnagarvey man could have shot but selflessly laid off to Ruttle to slap into an open net.
The promotion bodes well for the future with the side featuring 13 teenagers of which six were schoolboys for the 2021/22 season.
Ireland: S Dale, A Walker, M Collins, I Perrott, J Filgas, P Rose, E Jennings, C Mackay, L Rowe, J Lynch, M Cowan
Subs: M Duggan, S Ruttle, O Kidd, R Dunlop, J Clark, I Balding, R Clarke
Italy: E di Paola, G Brocco, M Succi, J Allegri, D Cavallini, C Brocco, G Fiorani, F Dionisi Vici, D Arosio, S Puglisi, A Giraudo
Subs: L D’Amico, S Zoppi, D Saoncella, L Palumbo, M Bettuzzi, A Dell’anno
Umpires: M Orzel (POL), M Cilkiz (TUR)