Ireland stun England to claim hockey bronze but must wait to discover Olympic fate

The waiting game begins for Ireland after they concluded their best ever year in international hockey with a remarkable Unibet EuroHockey Championship bronze medal on Saturday.

Ireland stun England to claim hockey bronze but must wait to discover Olympic fate

The backs-to-the-wall 4-2 win over world number five England stunned a packed house at the Lee Valley facility in London but this was just the latest in a series of high-profile scalps for Craig Fulton’s men.

The Green Machine defeated higher-ranked Pakistan and Malaysia en route to fifth place at World League 3, a result which gives them a great shot at a first Olympic qualification since 1908.

The convoluted qualification system means they must now wait until October’s African and Oceania continental championships, requiring an overall victory from either South Africa or Australia to propel them to Rio.

In the interim, finishing third at a European championships containing four of the world’s top five was some way to make a statement that 14th-ranked Ireland belong at world hockey’s top table.

Having dumped fourth-ranked Belgium out at the pool stages to reach the semi-finals for the first time, Ireland were brave but lacking a killer touch in the 1-0 semi-final defeat to the Netherlands, who went on to hammer Germany 6-1 in the decider. But the Green Machine weren’t satisfied with that. An England side that receives nine times the funding of the sponsorless Irish - and whom included three players who left the Irish setup to further their chances of winning medals - went ahead twice through Harry Martin and Adam Dixon but corner goals from Shane O’Donoghue and Alan Sothern levelled it.

Eugene Magee’s drag put Ireland in front, sparking a huge backs to wall effort before Fulton’s men broke out in the final minute, winning a penalty stroke when Iain Lewers clattered Kirk Shimmins as he was about to score.

O’Donoghue tucked away the stroke to spark wild celebrations in the Irish camp. “Whatever I say about us, we cannot take credit away from Ireland,” said England’s Dan Fox. “They’ve done brilliantly at this tournament.”

Fulton said the bronze medal was “just reward” for a team that “is no flash in the pan” while man of the match Paul Gleghorne added: “We are mixing it with the top teams in the world, teams we aspire to be like and to compete with. It is absolutely brilliant to get a bronze. We are delighted.”

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