Ireland hockey team ‘still right in this’

“Bloody delighted!” That was David Harte’s simple assessment as Ireland claimed their first win in an Olympic hockey tournament since 1908 in helter-skelter fashion, seeing off Canada 4-2.

Ireland hockey team ‘still right in this’

More than that, it keeps them hanging onto hopes of a quarter-final berth with tonight’s tie against Argentina (11.30pm, Irish time) now an all-or-nothing date where an Irish win would secure progression to the last eight.

Against Canada, from the dreamland of 3-0 at half-time thanks to two Shane O’Donoghue piledrivers and a sliding effort from Peter Caruth, Harte and his defence were living on tenterhooks by the closing stages.

Scott Tupper — sin-binned for two of Ireland’s goals — was on a personal mission to make amends and thundered in two replies. At that stage, it required all hands on the pump as both Ronan Gormley and Eugene Magee took efforts off the line before Mitch Darling’s goal calmed the frayed nerves with four minutes left.

“We always knew it would be a fight and we got a fantastic start with Shane sticking in the drag-flicks,” Harte said.

From there, we took our foot off the gas after half-time and they had to to come out as was expected but the guys dug out a fourth to make it a less nervy finish.”

Darling’s goal had none of the finesse of his beautiful — but ultimately ineffective — effort from the 3-2 loss to Germany but the Three Rock Rovers man will scarcely score a more memorable one.

Early on, Ireland showed they had learned the lessons of their prior group games where penalty corners were not used to best advantage.

Shane O’Donoghue, second from left, is congratulated by his Ireland team-mates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Pool B match between Ireland and Canada. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Shane O’Donoghue, second from left, is congratulated by his Ireland team-mates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Pool B match between Ireland and Canada. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

This time around, O’Donoghue fired one straight over the head of David Carter — the second smallest goalkeeper in the competition — with just 56 seconds played.

Canada pinned Ireland back at times but then O’Donoghue repeated the trick before

Canada captain Tupper brilliantly picked up the pieces from Mikey Watt’s initial shot. Tupper inspired the Canadian comeback before Darling kept alive what looked a dying chance late in the day.

His shot was innocuous but slipped under Carter, clearing the line by just a couple of centimetres, allowing an explosion of relief from the Irish fans.

Joy was almost short-lived, though, as Argentina, needing a win to move out of range of Ireland, came back from 3-1 down to lead Germany 4-3.

In hockey circles, as in football, there is a phrase “the Germans are not beaten until they are on the bus home”, and they summoned a goal in the last eight seconds for the second time this week. Mathias Muller tied the game at 4-4 and Ireland remain in the quarter-final hunt.

Harte says there will not be any time to dwell on what was yet another historic moment for his remarkable team with all focus now on the Pan-American champions.

“That’s it, celebrations done. We really have to get our head right because we are still right in this. It’s only 24 hours away and we have to get recovery started straight away.”

IRELAND:

D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, M Darling, K Good, P Gleghorne, C Harte.

Subs:

J Bell, A Sothern, J Jermyn, P Caruth, K Shimmins.

CANADA:

D Carter, S Tupper, D Teixeira, G Ho-Garcia, K Pereira, J Gill, A Froese, G Johnston, M Pearson, M Sarmento, S Panesar.

Subs:

B Martin, B Bissett, I Smythe, M Guest, T Curran Umpires: N Stagno, M Servetto

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