Under-19 girls land Four Nations title with boys finishing second

Ireland’s Under-19 girls shared the spoils with Scotland over their two games this weekend to take the Four Nations Series title while the Irish boys finished in second place.

Leading the table by two points from England going into the final series of the three-week competition, the Little Green Army had the title confirmed by Saturday night.

That was because of a 1-1 draw against the Scots, picking up the bonus point via a shoot-out success. In the meantime, Wales beat England 3-2 to put Ireland into an unassailable lead.

Gavin Groves’ side concluded the series with a 0-0 draw on Sunday at Jordanstown against the Scots and were denied in the shoot-out 2-1 but it proved immaterial in the final reckoning.

“It’s really satisfying for the whole group to sign off the programme with some success,” Groves said of the title, a welcome one after almost 18 months between fixtures for this key development group.

“The players have put so much in to these programmes so it was nice for them to get a little reward at the end.

“We were really happy with how the group has progressed through this series and we are delighted to have provided a platform for these players to push on to the next phase of their playing career. The consistent level of performance and aligned well with the results.

“We would like to thank AIB and all our other sponsors for their support. It gives us the opportunity to run this programme in a professional manner and provides the players with everything they need.”

In game one, Holly Barr gave Ireland the lead 40 seconds into the second half with a perfect deflection from a penalty corner swept down the right channel.

Lucy Smith equalised with five minutes remaining, peeling away from goal and smacking home with a powerful shot.

That sent the tie to a shoot-out for the extra bonus point. In tandem with Wales’ 3-2 win over England in the other Saturday match, it meant Ireland were four points clear in the group overnight and guaranteed the title.

On the boys side, Scotland leap-frogged Ireland on the final day of the competition with a smash and grab 2-0 success at Jordanstown.

Ireland had held the slight edge on Saturday evening after a remarkable 4-4 draw was followed by a shoot-out success.

In that game, Scotland took the lead with the last play of the first half from a corner rebound with Pete Caughey following up for 1-0.

Patrick Rose equalised just over a minute into the second half with a rasping shot on his backhand, kickstarting a thrilling second half. Jamie Croll got in behind the last defender to return Scotland to the lead five minutes later and Keir Robb’s reverse extended the lead out to 3-1.

Ireland levelled up, though, when Craig Mackay converted a penalty stroke and Adam Walker added a penalty corner, making it 3-3 with seven seconds left in the third quarter.

Robb got an outstanding fourth goal for Scotland to put them in front yet again with 11 minutes remaining but, ultimately, it was a draw when Kent Irwin’s brilliant pulled the ball out of reach of the goalkeeper and slotted home.

The shoot-out was won 4-3, bringing a bonus point that gave Ireland a slight edge going into the final game of the competition.

Craig Mackay celebrates his goal on Saturday. Picture: Adrian Boehm

It had Simon Lowry’s side a point ahead going into the final game and needing a draw to capture the crown but, try as they might, it proved elusive.

The Irish came out of the blocks in the first quarter the busier side but the Scots managed to weather the storm, and were dangerous on occasions on the counter-attack.
Adam MacKenzie put them 1-0 up from a rebound to put the Scots into the lead. The hosts had numerous penalty corner chances and close-run efforts in the final quarter but an equaliser could not be found.

Moments after Fionn Marriott’s reverse flashed across the face of goal, Scotland broke well and Keir Robb rounded the goalkeeper to clip home the second goal in the last three minutes.

It meant a second placed finish and a strong development base for a wide group of players with Lowry deploying out over 30 players in the course of these six games.

Ireland 1 (H Barr) Scotland 1 (L Smith), Ireland win shoot-out 3-0
Sunday: Ireland 0 Scotland 0, Scotland win shoot-out 2-1
Standings: 1. Ireland 13pts (+12) 2. Scotland 9pts (+3) 3. England 8pts (0) 4. Wales 6pts (-15)

Ireland 4 (P Rose, C Mackay, A Walker, K Irwin) Scotland 4 (K Robb 2, P Caughey, R Croll), Ireland win shoot-out 4-3
Sunday: Ireland 0 Scotland 2 (A MacKenzie, K Robb)
Standings: 1. Scotland 13pts (+6) 2. Ireland 11pts (+4) 3. England 7pts (-2) 4. Wales 5pts (-8)