World goalkeeper of the year David Harte believes new-look Ireland are in an “exciting” place after they survived some tough tests to win World League 2 in Belfast yesterday.
Having gone a goal behind, Ireland spent the second-half trying to break down a stubborn French half-court defence in yesterday’s final, eventually doing so with six minutes to go through Shane O’Donoghue’s short corner effort. That 1-1 stalemate sent it to a shootout, with Harte making two quality saves while his twin brother Conor, Eugene Magee, Lee Cole and Jonny McKee - named the junior player of the tournament - all scored to hand the Green Machine a 4-2 success.
Ireland also came from behind to defeat Wales 3-1 in Saturday’s semi-final - guaranteeing a place at World League 3 where 2018 World Cup spots will be up for grabs - and Harte feels things are looking up.
“You’re seeing the young talent combine well with the older heads – including me, even though I am only 28!” said Harte, who added yet another goalkeeper of the tournament award to his collection. “The lads may have only five to 10 caps but they are showing a lot more than that. Indeed, there are guys like Jonny McKee and Sean Murray who 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. ”
Shane O’Donoghue’s magnificent drag-flicking form has meant Ireland haven’t missed top goalscorer John Jermyn - ruled out on the eve of the tourney with injury - while coach Craig Fulton was quick to praise new captain Jonny Bell for bringing together a side shorn 10 of its Olympians.
“We are trying to play a pattern 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,” Fulton told The Hook.
“For example, Neal Glassey (scorer of the clinching goal in the semi-final win) 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.”
Meanwhile, Cork Harlequins gained some revenge for Bandon’s league win with a penalty strokes victory over them following a 2-2 draw in yesterday’s Division 2 Cup final at Garryduff. Bandon’s thirds had earlier seen off Cork C of I 3-0 to win the Division 3 Cup.
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