Ireland 3 (S O’Donoghue, B Walker, N Glassey) Wales 1 (G Furlong)
Ireland produced a composed performance to come from a goal down to beat Wales 3-1, guaranteeing they will advance not just to Sunday’s final but also to Round 3 of the World League where the World Cup 2018 tickets will be decided.
It was fine performance from the second quarter on, bouncing back after a low-key first 15 minutes in which Wales had the upper hand. They were rewarded with the first corner – courtesy of Owain Dolan-Gray’s right wing run – which Gareth Furlong duly dragged home for his fifth goal of the tournament.
That awoke Ireland and, with Sean Murray driving things, showed much more spark in the immediate aftermath. Jamie Wright was felled out by the left sideline in unceremonious fashion to give Ireland their first corner and Shane O’Donoghue nailed his drag-flick for 1-1 in the 18th minute.
Seven minutes later, Ben Walker made it 2-1. O’Donoghue powered into the circle from a turnover and pushed a shot beyond goalkeeper David Kettle but with not enough gas to reach the goal. The teenager picked it up and slightly miscued his shot but it had enough on it to loop into the goal.
The third quarter saw Jeremy Duncan go close after some gorgeous stick-skills and a reverse-stick shot. Chances were at a premium as Ireland kept Wales at arm’s length bar one penalty corner that Jonny Bell – who made a glut of strong tackles – Conor Harte and Jonny McKee all had hands in charging down.
Neal Glassey then got the clinching goal with 13 minutes to go, capping a fine performance with a knee-high deflection from McKee’s quickly taken free.
From there, Wales enjoyed plenty of ball deep in the Irish half but created only half-chances with Rupert Shipperley ballooning a shot over the bar while Luke Hawker touched over a sharp chance.
It meant Ireland prevailed 3-1 with something to spare, securing their primary target from the competition.
Speaking afterwards, coach Craig Fulton said was delighted with the performance and the ticket to the next stage of the World Cup qualification process.
“Target achieved for sure but we do have one more game to go and we want to win the final,” he said. “We played well today; it was a tough game and all credit to Wales. They were an attacking side and strong defensively. We had to be patient.
“We have a good set piece, scoring one goal from one corner. Once we got that goal, we got our shape and structure back. Once we got that moving, it was a different game and we put together a few more phases.”
He paid tribute to Jonny Bell’s leadership performance at the heart of defence, a key factor in bringing together a side packed with new players on this stage.
“It’s characteristic of a captain’s performance. He played well with all the defenders. We had to bring our best there to set our platform for attack.
“We have had about 15 games together as a squad. Ranking goes out the window at a tournament like this – you can’t tell me Wales are 34th in the world! – and you have to do it on the day.
“We are trying to play a pattern that we have been doing for 18 to 24 months, working off a nice defensive base and then look to counter and go forward. Even though we are putting new faces in, they know what is required.
“For example, Neal Glassey is in his first tournament but he has been part of the squad for two years so he knows what we do and how we play. He had a great game today and scored a great goal which took the game away from them.”
Goalkeeper David Harte added that the side is evolving quickly with so many new faces with eight players making their ranking tournament debuts and putting in high quality performances.
“I’d use the word exciting to describe where we are. You see the young talent combine with the older heads – inlcuding me, even though I am only 28. The lads may have only five to 10 caps but they are showing a lot more than that.
“Indeed, there’s guys like Jonny McKee and Sean Murray who even I would not have been too aware of but they are doing great things in the EY Hockey League and it’s fantastic to see them at this level.
“A tournament like this does have banana-skins but the guys have had a good programme in place which knitted the group together which you could feel once we arrived in Belfast. It’s great to see.”
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, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, J Wright, J Carr
Wales: D Kettle, B Carless, D Kyriakides, L Prosser, R Shipperley, D Hutchinson, L Brignull, J Gooch, J Kyriakides, B Francis, L Hawker
Subs: J Draper, R Furlong, O Dolan-Gray, R Mugridge, J Carson, J Fortnam, G Furlong
Hockey World League Round 2, semi-final
France 2 (Van Straaten, Charlet)
France insured they will progress to the next phase of the World League as first half goals from Pieter van Straaten and Victor Charlet proved enough against Scotland in a 2-0 result.
Van Straaten opened the scoring with a top effort from play, firing home after some good work in midfield with 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Victor Charlet slammed in a corner in the 22nd minute for 2-0 as France had a huge volume of control in the first half.
Scotland, though, bounced back in the second half, throwing everything forward and penning France back in their 23 metre zone. They had a series of penalty corners but were unable to break the defences of Arthur Thieffry while Jean-Baptiste Forgues made a couple of key tackles.
Michael Bremner hit the post with the pick of their chances while France also hit the post twice at the other end. With no further goals, the French prevailed and will play Ireland in the final in Belfast.
5th/8th Place Matches:
Austria will meet Poland in the fifth place playoff while Ukraine meet Italy with seventh place on the line following Saturday’s crossover games.
The Austrians eased to a 6-1 win over Ukraine with Michael Korper firing home a hat trick. Ukraine did hit the front when Andrii Koshelenko netted an 18th minute penalty corner.
But two Korper efforts swapped the lead within eight minutes before Patrick Schmidt made it 3-1 at half-time. Dominic Uher’s corner and a field goal from Alexander Bele extended the margin to 5-1 before Korper completed the win.
Poland’s tie with Italy was far tighter. Patryk Pawlak and Juan Montone exchanged early goals to leave the tie locked at 1-1 for the guts of half an hour before Mateusz Hulboj grabbed the winner in the second half. Poland had chances to make the game safer but held on, nonetheless, for their first win of the competition, 2-1.