Big learning curve for Irish Under-21 men’s indoor side

The Irish Under-21 men’s indoor side had a steep learning curve on day one of their EuroHockey Junior Championship II in Porto as they made their debut in two high-scoring affairs.

Against Ukraine in game one, they got an idea of the challenge ahead as they went 5-0 by half-time. They fought back in the second half to share it 3-3 with Oliver Kidd netting a hat trick – a corner, one from play and a stroke – for a final score of 8-3.

Game two proved a frustrating one. Ireland got off to a flying start with Kidd getting his second hat trick of the day inside the first four minutes for a 3-0 lead with Jack Haycock to the fore. Kidd got his fourth before half-time but that advantage was cut back to 4-3 at the big break.

Kenny Carroll’s side bounced back to build a 6-3 lead once more by the 25th minute with Harry McCarthy and Traolach Butler on the mark; Butler’s second of the game meant they led 7-5 going into the final quarter.

But the Croats produced an excellent final spell to swap things around and win out 9-7 with the boys in green disappointed to miss a stroke which would have made it 8-8 with two minutes remaining.

“A bit of rollercoaster,” said coach Carroll. “We actually started well and should have been a couple of goals up but, obviously, 5-0 at half-time, there was a bit of naivety. The game was over then so the second half was about trying to win that and we were happy with how we finished that game.

“For Croatia, we thought we had a good plan and the game started really well. A few of the things we worked on actually happened and we got goals from them. As a neutral, it was probably a great one to watch from an excitement point of view but it became unstructured, pressing high, making for a lot of space and counter-attacks and we came out on the wrong side of it in the last quarter.

“We want to improve from game to game and we are still very much in it to get a couple of results before the end of the weekend.”

Ireland start their Saturday games at 1.30pm Irish time against Portugal before facing tournament favourites Belarus at 5.15pm.

Men’s EuroHockey Indoor Championship II (Paredes, Portugal)
Friday results:
Ireland 3 (O Kidd 3) Ukraine 8 (Y Dzemukh 3, V Mynchuk 2, O Popov, O Boiko, V Zhmereniuk); Ireland 7 (O Kidd 4, T Butler 2, H McCarthy) Croatia 9 (M Ilnovic 3, M Dananic 2, T Dabic 2, L Wehr, L Mesaric)
Saturday: Ireland v Portugal, 1.30pm; Ireland v Belarus, 5.15pm

Standings: 1. Belarus 6pt (+9) 2. Ukraine 6pts (+7) 3. Denmark 3pts (-1) 4. Croatia 3pts (-2) 5. Portugal 0pts (-6) 6. Ireland 0pts (-7)