CORK'S David Harte was voted Goalkeeper of the Tournament as Ireland won the Hockey World League Round 2 tournament in Belfast last weekend.
The main objective for the week was achieved on Saturday with an impressive 3-1 win over Wales, ensuring Ireland finished in the top three with goals from Shane O’Donoghue, Ben Walker and Neal Glassey.
That ensures they go forward to World League Round 3 where the 2018 World Cup places will be decided. They followed it up with the tournament win, getting the better of France yesterday in a penalty shoot-out.
The first half of the final was a subdued affair with flowing hockey at a premium. France earned a couple of penalty corners that David Harte kept out while his counterpart Arthur Thieffry did likewise, keeping out shots from Shane O’Donoghue and Jonny McKee.
With the half petering out, France won their third corner and Victor Charlet got the opening goal with a low bullet down the middle.
The third quarter provided more of the same before Ireland upped their game in the closing quarter, rattling the French who were reduced to nine men for various indiscretions.
During that time Ronan Gormley won Ireland’s only corner, which Shane O’Donoghue scored to make it 1-1 with eight minutes to go. Both sides failed to score again and it went to a shoot-out.
In the shoot-out Conor Harte, twin brother of David; Eugene Magee, Cole and McKee all scored, while David Harte’s pair of saves ensured victory for Ireland.
Irish coach, Craig Fulton, it was hugely satisfying in seeing a much-changed squad prevail with eight tournament debutants while he had to cope with the injuries to John Jermyn and Chris Cargo late in the day. It meant numerous new faces but he was quick to praise the squad for building game on game to produce ever-improved performances.
“They are the future of Irish hockey,” Fulton said of the new faces. “We want to blood them and there’s no better place than a tournament like this with the quarters, semis and final. They now have that experience.
“We played five games with 15 guys [due to the injuries]; that’s not normal for a squad. The team environment has been building and is something that is very strong with these guys.
“Anyone coming into the group feels it. We have a world class staff; there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes that make this team tick and a huge amount of work.” Fulton added that the discipline of his side was crucial, keeping their heads while France lost theirs in the final quarter: “Our discipline has been very good this tournament and is something we worked on to improve for key moments. It worked today.
“It was a good battle; France played really well, controlled the ball nicely but I knew if we could get our press going, we could put pressure on them.
“It was a tough game. The last 20 minutes, the intensity started to liven up. We knew we would create something and the last quarter turned in our favour when they got the two green cards and the yellow which opened the gate for us.” Ireland will next play at World League Round 3 in South Africa in July before contesting the European Championships in August in Amsterdam.