“The video umpire should hang his head in shame.” Captain Jonathan Bell’s summation will be echoed around the Irish hockey world as a farcical video review decision with one second to go denied his side a place at the 2020 Olympic Games.
The Green Machine were already celebrating their ticket as their Canadian hosts seemingly had run out of time in their bid to reel in a two-goal deficit.
They threw a hopeful “T-sign” to umpire Ben Goentgen – who had seen nothing untoward, for a review, one final throw of the dice.
Diego Barbas, the man in the box, somehow contrived to call Lee Cole’s tackle on James Wallace as a penalty stroke though the striker, at best, seemed to trod on the defender’s stick.
The decision was made in the absence of reverse-angles at the Rutledge Field venue, a usual standard for international games, and drew absolute disbelief. Scott Tupper stayed cool and converted, making it 3-1 in the game and 6-6 on aggregate, sending the tie to shoot-out.
There, Ireland should also have seen out the tie, building a 3-1 advantage but neither Michael Robson or Shane O’Donoghue could see it out and the hosts won it in sudden death.
A truly horrendous ending, it could well be Bell’s final game in international hockey and before he was cut off by the local interviewer, he did not hold back.
“It was a terrible, terrible decision in the last seconds of the game. A decision like that at this level is just not acceptable.”
It was the second time in three Olympic cycles Ireland were left out on their feet. In 2012, a Korean goal eight seconds from time denied them a place in London.
This one was far worse, a completely wrong decision, made in haste that went nowhere close to stroke stipulations of a deliberate foul or a foul stopping a clear goalscoring chance.
Ireland had come into the tie with a 5-3 lead from Saturday’s first leg and they strengthened that position when John McKee ghosted away down the left wing and slapped into the right corner.
From there, however, Ireland were nursing their advantage in slightly frantic fashion. They got through to half-time with one goal chipped away from their advantage, Gordon Johnston breaking through Dave Fitzgerald’s otherwise excellent defences.
And the nerves were well and truly jangling when Oliver Scholfield turned in Johnston’s cross from the left wing with 23 minutes to go.
After a flurry of yellow cards, Ireland looked to have weathered the storm until the very last seconds when Wallace wriggled free down the left baseline before spilling the ball out of play.
Goentgen blew for full-time, Ireland were in raptures and a seemingly spurious video review would soon be dismissed. At best a penalty corner but the stroke decision was unfathomable – the Olympic dream stolen.
A Kindler, F van Son, S Tupper, B Logan, K Pereira, A Froese, G Johnston, B Bissett, J Wallace, J Smythe, S Panesar
G Ho-Garcia, O Scholfield, B Panesar, F Boothroyd, M Sarmento, J Kirkpatrick, D Carter
D Fitzgerald, J Jackson, C Harte, L Cole, D Walsh, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, T Cross, J Duncan, J McKee, P Caruth
J Bell, S Loughrey, C Cargo, M Nelson, E Magee, M Robson, J Milliken
G Greenfield (NZL), B Goentgen (GER)