Ireland succumb to Scottish comeback at men’s Euros

Men’s EuroHockey Championship II, semi-final
Ireland 2 (K O’Dea, B Walker) Scotland 3 (A Forsyth 3)
Ireland succumbed to a big Scottish fightback as Alan Forsyth’s hat trick transformed a 2-0 lead into a 3-2 defeat, leaving Ireland to play for third place on Saturday on the final day of the EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno, Poland.

Hopes were flying high in the early stages with Kevin O’Dea slotting home in the seventh minute and Ben Walker made it 2-0 nine minutes later.

But they could not make use of a selection of penalty corners as Scotland hung tough and got a lifeline just before half-time from an Alan Forsyth penalty stroke. The striker equalised late in the third quarter at 2-2 and then put the Scots ahead for the first time with nine minutes to go from a second stroke.

Reflecting on the tie, coach Mark Tumilty was frustrated the side could not take more of their chances when in the ascendancy and it came back to bite them in the end.

“We played some reasonable hockey at times, created plenty of opportunities,” he said afterwards. “But at this level and the level above, if you don’t take your chances and execute your corners, you leave yourself open to what happened out on the pitch today.

“We definitely had opportunities. While they came more into it in the second half, we still had chances and balls into their circle to put the game out of reach. But to be fair, with Forsyth up front, they are always dangerous.

“It’s another tough lesson for the Irish senior men’s team. It has to stop happening and we have to get across the line in this type of game.”

The Green Machine stormed into the first half, playing a direct game of pace and precision which yielded a number of healthy chance. The pick of them came when McKee crossed from the right and the ball fell to the unmarked O’Dea and he coolly slotted home his first international goal through Tommy Alexander’s legs.

Ben Nelson went close to getting a second from another McKee cross but the second goal did arrive soon after the second quarter started. Mark McNellis was the creator, lifting the ball past his marker and then picking out Walker who swept home first time.

But five first half corners – with the injection slowed by a heavy downpour of rain – could not get the best of goalkeeper Tommy Alexander and it was Scotland who nicked a vital reply just before half-time.

It came from their second corner from which Cammy Golden’s drag hit Fergus Gibson’s body on the goal line. Forsyth stepped up to convert the ensuing penalty stroke.

Into the second half, Ian Stewart was next to go close when his rasping shot shaved the outside of the post.

But the blue sticks were gaining a greater foothold in the contest and finding important incisions. Golden fired another warning shot before the equaliser arrived in the 45th minute.

James Milliken saved a first up shot but the ball was worked to Forsyth and he spun at close range and fired into the bottom corner.

And the winner arrived with nine minutes remaining, another penalty stroke, this time awarded for what was deemed a deliberate back-stick foul by Jeremy Duncan in the process of clearing the ball. Again, Forsyth converted well.

It left Ireland with nine minutes to grab something from the game but Alexander twice repelled chances from Sean Murray as Scotland held on for the 3-2 victory and a place in the final.

Ireland, meanwhile, must regroup quickly for Saturday’s third place playoff (12.45pm, Irish time).

“It is important to finish any tournament or camp on a win. We need to win tomorrow and kickstart our [October] World Cup qualifier preparations.

“It is disappointing to lose today but we have to regroup and see tomorrow as another opportunity for this young group to get international hockey under their belt.

“We need to do better and fix some of the things from the second half today, be more clinical and execute our penalty corners.”

Ireland: J Milliken, T Cross, J McKee, N Glassey, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, P McKibbin, J Duncan, M Robson, I Stewart
Subs: D Walsh, K O’Dea, M McNellis, B Walker, B Nelson, F Gibson

Scotland: T Alexander, M Bremner, A Bull, A Forsyth, L Morton, A McConnell, C Golden, H Imrie, M Collins, R Shepherdson, C McKenzie
Subs: S Walker, H Galt, E Greaves, R Harwood, R Field, R Croll

Umpires: A Ilgrande (ITA), B Messerli (SUI)