Three Rock Rovers advanced to the EuroHockey Indoor Challenge I promotion pool as group winners in Oslo following an ever-improving set of performances.
Indeed, it could have been a very different complexion to their tournament had they lost their opening tie when they trailed Ukraine’s OKS SHVSM Vinnitsa 5-2 with four minutes to go.
But a quickfire run of three goals changed their whole momentum with Ross Canning scoring on the final hooter for what proved an important draw on Friday morning.
They backed that up with a 3-2 win over Cardiff & Met, pulling clear with two more late goals from Jody Hosking and Canning in the last five minutes.
It left them in second place overnight, facing the other leading side Bologna – both on seven points out of 10 – with a win confirming they would go through.
The first half was tight with the Italians on top but Conor Quinn kept Rovers’ noses in front 2-1 with a brilliant corner save. And then Rovers went on a second half rampage, scoring three times in quick succession after half-time to seal the win before running up another three goals late on for an 8-1 success.
Cardiff’s 2-2 draw with Vinnitsa, meanwhile, meant Rovers go through to the promotion pool along with Bologna, carrying with them the points and goal difference from that thumping win.
Reflecting on the group stages, coach Liam Canning said: “That comeback [against Vinnitsa] was massive. It comes from playing regularly in these tournaments indoors and in the EHL, the experience and belief the lads have to fight back is huge.
“They are developing that calmness and composure in tough situations. Against Bologna, it was tight in the first half with the Italians on top. We changed a few things at half time and played some outstanding stuff.
“Overall, we have a really good squad now and when we make subs, the standard doesn’t drop a level at all really. That makes a big difference. Quinner has made some big saves and Jamie [Carr] came in to keep things calm.”
Three Rock will now represent Ireland at the Euro club Trophy in February 2020. This is the first time since 1996 that Ireland have have had a men’s team at this level.
EuroHockey Indoor Club Challenge I (Oslo, Norway)
Friday: HC OKS SHVSM Vinnitsa 5 Three Rock Rovers 5 (R Canning 2, J Hosking, H Morris, B Walker); Cardiff & Met 2 Three Rock Rovers 3 (E Geyer, J Hosking, R Canning)
Saturday: Hockey Club Bologna 1 Three Rock Rovers 8 (R Canning 2, H Morris 2, J Hosking, J McAllister, D Walsh, H Morris)
Standings: 1. Three Rock Rovers 12pts (+8) 2. Bologna 7pts (-5) 3. OKS SHVSM Vinnitsa 6pts (0) 4. Cardiff & Met 4pts (-3)
By Stephen Findlater, original article appeared here.