Ireland’s young side produced their performance of the week in a pressure-filled tie against Poland, winning 5-1 to advance to the semi-final and a step away from a ticket to the World League semi-finals where the World Cup tickets will be decided.
They started superbly, winning a penalty corner in the first 15 seconds while Eugene Magee also had a smash at ball unfortunately blocked by team mate Jonny McKee.
From there, they moved the ball, creating a number of good attacks but the last pass just would not stick. Poland had a corner, too, but it was kept at bay with minimal fuss.
The second quarter, though, was where the game was won. Ireland employed a high-lying sweeper to good effect and it played a key role in the first two goals. Matthew Bell stepped forward to pick up the pieces and shoot across the face of goal in the 19th minute for McKee to guide home.
Moments later, it was 2-0 as Conor Harte this time strode forward and picked out Eugene Magee at the right post to turn home. Another feature was an aggressive press with Neal Glassey and Shane O’Donoghue preying on any loose ball.
The latter nicked in to set up the move that won Ireland’s second corner. O’Donoghue flung in the drag-flick for 3-0 at half-time. He added the fourth soon after half-time, this time from Glassey’s good work and the Green Machine were all but home and hosed.
Poland did rally, their tournament hopes on the line, and pushed on in the final ten minutes. Pawel Bratkowksi clipped the crossbar from a corner before Patryk Bulka nudged in a close-range shot from a scrappy melee.
Ireland, though, capped the win with a glorious fifth goal, breaking forward from half-way with a series of intricate one-touch passes, leading to Sean Murray to chip over the goalkeeper Rafal Banaszak. It was going in but McKee made extra sure.
Coach Craig Fulton said afterwards: “In a must-win game, there will always be tension. These are difficult games; it’s a quarter-final and must-win.
“Whether you play beautifully or its pretty, it doesn’t matter. The result is everything.”
Reflecting on the flow of the game, he added: “We did well in the first quarter but couldn’t put a final pass on it. They are a difficult team to play against and Mateusz Poltaszewski is a good player and controlled things for a while.
“But once we got one, two and three that put them under a lot of pressure. We pressed well. The stepping forward from us was really good. All respect to Poland, we maybe left three or four more goals out there. Where we are getting the ball are really good areas. It is building.”
Ireland next play Wales on Saturday afternoon in the competition’s semi-final at 2.30pm at Stormont. The winner advances to the final and is guaranteed a ticket to the next phase of the World League.
France and Scotland will contest the other semi-final.
Ireland: D Harte, J Bell, M Bell, R Gormley, M Nelson, E Magee, N Glassey, S O’Donoghue, J McKee, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: B Walker, C Cargo, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, J Wright, J Carr
Poland: R Banaszak, M Raciniewski, M Gumny, D Kotulski, S Sellner, M Hulboj, J Janicki, R Wisniewski, A Krokosz, P Bratkowski, M Poltaszewski
Subs: P Bulka, B Zywiczka, R Gruszczynski, P Pawlak, J Kurowski, K Sudol, M Popiolkowskia
Umpires: V Ilgrande, I Diamond
Hockey World League
France 11 (E Tynevez 2, B Rogeau 2, C Masson 2, P van Straaten, J-L Kieffer, T Genestet, V Lockwood, G Deront)
Ukraine 2 (A Koshelenko, A Mazurkevych)
France moved a step closer to qualification for World League Round 2 as they blew apart Ukraine in the first quarter at Stormont to advance to the semi-finals and within one win of advancing.
It took them nine minutes to get up and running as Etienne Tynevez – their Under-18 captain of 2016 – slipping his marker and shooting home. Tom Genestet’s reverse-stick effort made it 2-0 and Charles Masson shot high into the net for a 3-0 lead at quarter-time.
Blaise Rogeau and Simon Martin-Brisac extended the lead out to five by the big break. Pieter van Straaten and Masson’s second put them seven up. From there, there was respite for Ukraine who got one back from Andrii Koshelenko’s second penalty stroke of the tournament.
Jean-Laurent Kieffer and Viktor Lockwood made it 9-1; Artur Mazurkevych scored a Ukraine corner but Rogeau and Tynevez nabbed their second each to extend the lead out to 11-2. France advance to Saturday's semi-finals where a win will see them guaranteed a ticket to the World League semi-final while Ukraine go into the fifth to eighth place playoffs.
Wales 3 (G Furlong 2, R Shipperley)
Gareth Furlong’s pair of set piece goals in the first half set Wales on course for a composed victory over Italy and get them in the mix for the tickets to the World League Round 3.
After a couple of early corners, Furlong dragged his side into the lead in the 15th minute with a low blast for 1-0. He added a stroke midway through the second quarter for 2-0 and, for the most part, were very much in control.
And the third goal killed off any chance the Italians had. James Kyriakides made a brilliant run, drifting away from the cover defence from left to right before shooting back into the centre. Rupert Shipperley was on hand to guide it in from close range.
Italy attempted to push forward in the closing quarter but could not create any major chances and Wales saw out the tie with comfort.
Austria 5 (D Uher 3, A Bele, B Stanzl)
Scotland 5 (A Forsyth 3, L Morton, E Greaves), Scotland win 4-2 on shoot-out
Scotland became the third side to reach the semi-finals of World League Round 2 as they produced a flawless shoot-out to beat Austria after a titanic tussle in normal time ended 5-5.
Alan Forsyth and Dominic Uher exchanged hat tricks in a game that was level on five occasions as both sides went hell for leather for the win. Alexander Bele set the tone in just the second minute to give Austria the lead only for Forsyth to level the tie in the ninth minute.
An Uher drag-flick made it 2-1 at quarter-time but a Forsyth stroke had the game locked up at 2-2 at the big break. Another Uher drag restored the Austrian lead with Ed Greaves, this time, the man to tie the match up once more.
Benjamin Stanzl gave Austria the lead for the fourth time with a brilliant solo goal when he got in around the back and swept around Tommy Alexander. He and Forsyth were the game’s dominant forces with both taking on more and more of the ball.
Forsyth added a brilliant run and backhand finish for 4-4. Scotland then took the lead with 100 seconds to go when Lee Morton guided in Willie Marshall’s crash ball into the circle. But Stanzl won two more corners and, from the second of them, Uher found the net with 40 seconds left to send the game to shoot-out.
Scotland netted all four of theirs with Forsyth, Jamie Wong, Lee Morton and Gavin Byers all netting while David Forrester – swapping into goal for Alexander – denied to two Austrian efforts for the win.