Ireland rout Poland to seal semi spot

Ireland proved the hockey public’s cash was money well spent as they cruised into the Champions Challenge I semi-finals in Quilmes, Argentina yesterday.

Based on world rankings, Ireland would have been expected to be battling to avoid relegation from the eight-team tournament, but instead they are now guaranteed a top-four finish after a 4-0 quarter-final demolition of Poland. Argentina will be their semi-final opponents tomorrow.

It repays the faith of the hundreds of supporters who combined to donate €60,000 in just four days to get the green machine to Argentina, after the cash-strapped Irish Hockey Association board initially withdrew the side from the tournament amid much controversy.

Ireland belatedly discovered their scoring touch after a goalless first half, with Michael Watt scoring one and setting up Shane O’Donoghue for another in between two well-worked short corner goals from Conor Harte.

Poland even obliged Irish goalkeeper David Harte on his 100th appearance, missing an open goal from a metre out late on to ensure the Cork man celebrated the milestone with a cleansheet.

Having began with defeats to Argentina and Japan before seeing off South Africa on Tuesday, things are now coming nicely to the boil in Andrew Meredith’s first tournament in charge.

Meanwhile, domestic attention turns to the Irish Junior Cup this weekend, although some sides will be better stocked than others.

While there are no senior Munster men’s games down for decision tomorrow, allowing their IJC representatives full access to players who float between the first and second XIs, there are full programmes for Leinster men and women and Munster women, which could possibly weaken their hand on the national stage.

UCC and Cork Harlequins will both be thankful for that as they send squads to Ulster for trips to NICS and Annadale respectively, while Cork C of I have again drawn Mossley at home in round one, where they won 6-1 12 months ago.

Last year’s women’s semi-finalists C of I return to Ballymoney, where they won 4-0 in the last 16 last season, Quins have Genesis away while UCC host Queen’s University.

The Cork students could be forgiven for having one eye on Limerick as their first team meet Catholic Institute needing a result to keep pace at the top of Division One. Bandon’s meeting with UL already has the look of a relegation six-pointer while Ashton and Limerick will both be looking to recover from disappointing Irish Hockey Trophy defeats as they lock horns in Cork.

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