Ireland’s Under-21 women and men’s team salvaged upbeat wins to their European campaigns though the ultimate feeling will be of missed opportunities for both.
The women ended their A division campaign in seventh place with a resounding 5-1 win over France as they belatedly found the Midas touch in front of goal in Valencia.
They were already relegated, however, following losses to the two finalists – the Netherlands and Spain – and, crucially, on day one against Russia when they could not convert their superiority into goals.
A 1-0 loss ensued and will remain the defining moment from the campaign. Against the French, their travails in front of goal looked set to continue as they could not score from eight penalty corners.
But once Michelle Carey netted 21 minutes from time, the floodgates burst in spectacular fashion with Limerick woman Laura Foley scoring twice and Cork’s Michelle Barry made it 4-0.
France got one back but Carey netted once more on the final whistle for an upbeat finish.
The Under-21 men won for the fourth time out of five outings in the Czech Republic when they beat Turkey 4-1 courtesy of a pair of Guy Sarratt penalty strokes and one each from Ali Empey and Callum Robson.
But it was not enough to earn promotion as their semi-final loss on Friday to Scotland – eventual winners in the final 9-0 against Russia – left them shy of their target.
In Eindhoven, the Irish Under-18 boys produced the pick of the performances from the Volvo 6 Nations in Eindhoven when they drew 2-2 with champions Spain.
It was their first point of the campaign, a rare one across both the boys and girls competition with only the Under-16 boys recording a win against Poland.
With both the Under-18 and 16 girls sides posting five losses out of five, questions are already been raised by parents and beyond over Hockey Ireland’s commitment to supporting the junior age groups.
Each side’s preparation and involvement in these top-line competitions is only possible via self-funded programmes with each limited by what each team can raise themselves.