De­flected shot cru­elly ends Ire­land’s Olympic dreams

Ire­land Rus­sia 3 0

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - JOHNNY WAT­TER­SON at Belfield

FEW WORDS, ex­pla­na­tions, emo­tions can ar­tic­u­late the depths of dis­ap­point­ment in Belfield yes­ter­day when the ef­forts of more than four years work not so much came crash­ing down but van­ished into the clear blue skies over UCD.

The man­ner of the Ir­ish hockey team’s 3-2 de­feat to Korea in the dy­ing sec­onds of the final of the Olympic Qual­i­fy­ing event will live with this side for some time and as with ev­ery Olympic cam­paign can­not be di­rectly ad­dressed for an­other four years lead­ing up to the 2016 games in Rio.

“It’s pretty hard to take for the en­tire group,” said South African coach Paul Rev­ing­ton. “They had worked very hard and to have it taken away at the end was a tough call. They’ll have to get on with it. It was a tight game. It was go­ing to be won or lost on a mo­ment like this and un­for­tu­nately for us it went against us.”

The ex­cru­ci­at­ing mo­ment was the win­ning goal sec­onds from the end of nor­mal time. In a match that looked des­tined for ex­tra-time, a “Hail Mary” free hit to­wards the crowded Ir­ish goal with eight sec­onds re­main­ing took the slight­est of de­flec­tions off a Korean stick and past goal­keeper David Harte, si­lenc­ing the crowd of 2,000 peo­ple and bring­ing to an abrupt end all Ir­ish am­bi­tions for London 2012.

To add to the drama the um­pire, like most in the ground, did not see the touch from Nam Yong Lee and didn’t award the goal. But af­ter a bar­rage of Korean com­plaints the play was re­ferred to the Video Um­pire, brought in only for the final and not used in any of the other pool matches.

The re­play con­firmed what the Korean team be­lieved, which was that Lee had ac­tu­ally glanced the ball in­side the Ir­ish cir­cle.

The ini­tial decision was reversed and a goal awarded with the Ir­ish play­ers hav­ing barely enough time to even restart the match. It was com­fort­ably the cru­ellest end to any Ir­ish hockey cam­paign in mod­ern times and will take some time for this team to as­sim­i­late.

The Olympic Games has been the tar­get since London was cho­sen as the venue and with Rev­ing­ton am­bi­tiously shap­ing and im­prov­ing the team for the past num­ber of years, they had been reg­u­larly beat­ing teams ranked higher, Korea and Spain last year.

But Korean speed and elu­sive­ness, two qual­i­ties that char­ac­terised their play, de­liv­ered the final sting af­ter Ire­land had twice taken the lead through Peter Car­ruth and Tim Cock­ram and Korea twice fought back to level through Lee, who scored twice, and Hyunwoo Nam.

“The play­ers and the staff have worked re­ally hard,” added Rev­ing­ton. “They’ve worked longer than three years. It will be tough for them to face to­mor­row but as in life sport deals us blows and we have to stand up again and keep go­ing.”

Rev­ing­ton was also un­com­plain­ing af­ter a match that bounced from one end to the other, Korea ig­nit­ing light­ning counter-at­tacks and Ire­land pa­tiently build­ing phases and per­haps more con­sis­tently hold­ing the ball go­ing for­ward.

“I think their speed, their skill and run­ning was a tough thing to con­trol and I don’t think to­wards the end we con­trolled it,” added the Ire­land coach. The award­ing of the goal af­ter the video re­fer­ral was also gra­ciously ac­cepted.

“The body lan­guage of the play­ers told the story. Ah . . . I think ev­ery­body knew it was a goal,” he added be­fore ad­mit­ting it was the most dif­fi­cult out­come of his coach­ing ca­reer to date.

“I’ve faced a few but, yeah, that would rank up there,” he said.

“I would have been con­fi­dent the whole way through. I didn’t think for a sec­ond as we were stand­ing on the side of the pitch we were go­ing to lose it.”

Ire­land miss an his­toric op­por­tu­nity, Korea join 11 other na­tions in the 12-team Olympic tour­na­ment be­gin­ning in July.

AF­TER THE agony of events at Belfield yes­ter­day, Ir­ish hockey’s fo­cus now turns to the ef­forts of the women’s team to make it to London this sum­mer – and with six points out of six from their open­ing games in their Olympic qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign in Bel­gium, they could hardly have got off to a bet­ter start.

True, their vic­to­ries came against two of the teams, France and Rus­sia, ranked be­low them, but slip-ups against sim­i­lar op­po­nents in past tour­na­ments have scup­pered the team’s hopes be­fore they even warmed up.

And things looked omi­nous enough when they went a goal down af­ter 13 min­utes to the French in Satur­day’s opener, Gwe­naelle Du­tel fin­ish­ing off a speedy counter-at­tack. But from there on Ire­land dom­i­nated the game, goals from Alex Speers, Au­drey O’flynn, Aine Con­nery, Lisa Ja­cob and Michelle Har­vey giv­ing them a 5-1 win.

Ire­land were 2-1 up by half-time, cap­tain Speers lev­el­ling on 20 min­utes af­ter Emma Smyth picked her out from a free at the edge of the cir­cle, O’flynn’s drag flick on the hooter putting her team ahead.

Three more goals in the first 12 min­utes of the sec­ond half sealed the win, Con­nery’s ex­quis­ite flick over the French goal­keeper for the third the pick of the bunch.

Con­nery, also a Kilkenny camo­gie player of some re­pute, won her 50th cap in yes­ter­day’s 3-0 de­feat of Rus­sia, Michelle Har­vey mark­ing her birth­day with the open­ing goal from a short corner.

O’flynn made it 2-0 be­fore the break when she pow­ered home from an­other set-piece and it was the Cork woman’s corner ex­per­tise that put Ire­land 3-0 up eight min­utes in to the sec­ond half.

That, though, was the end of the scor­ing, de­spite sev­eral more chances, but coach Gene Muller was con­tent at full-time, pleased with the team’s dis­play against “a tricky op­po­nent”.

Next up for Ire­land, af­ter to­day’s rest day, are Mex­ico who, af­ter los­ing 7-0 to Spain on Satur­day, bat­tled well to trail Bel­gium by just the three goals at half-time yes­ter­day – and then suf­fered the mother of all sec­ond-half col­lapses, go­ing on to lose 12-0.

That re­sult puts the hosts top of the ta­ble on, not sur­pris­ingly, goal dif­fer­ence, with Spain in sec­ond.

The top seeds, though, were far from im­pres­sive yes­ter­day as they strug­gled to a 2-1 win over a French side that Ire­land had so com­pre­hen­sively out­played.

An en­cour­ag­ing start, then, but with games against the Span­ish and Bel­gians still to come, there are sterner tests ahead. IRE­LAND (v France): E Gray, N Sym­mons, C Sar­gent, S Mccarthy, A O’flynn, E Smyth, L Colvin, S Mc­cay, A Speers (capt), A Con­nery, L Ja­cob. Subs: M Har­vey, E Clarke, N Daly, M Crow­ley, N Evans IRE­LAND (v Rus­sia): E Gray, N Sym­mons, C Sar­gent, S Mccarthy, A O’flynn, E Smyth, L Colvin, E Clarke, A Speers (capt), A Con­nery, L Ja­cob. Subs: M Har­vey, S Mc­cay, N Daly, M Crow­ley, C Watkins. Re­sults – Olympic Qual­i­fier (at Beer­schot, Bel­gium) – Satur­day: Spain 7 Mex­ico 0; Ire­land 5 (A Speers, A O’flynn, A Con­nery, L Ja­cob, M Har­vey) France 1 (G Du­tel); Bel­gium 4, Rus­sia 0. Yes­ter­day: Spain 2 France 1; Ire­land 3 (A O’flynn 2, M Har­vey) Rus­sia 0; Bel­gium 12, Mex­ico 0. Fix­tures – to­mor­row: Ire­land v Mex­ico, noon; Rus­sia v France, 2.30; Spain v Bel­gium, 5pm. Thurs­day: Rus­sia v Mex­ico, 1pm; Ire­land v Spain, 3.30; Bel­gium v France, 6.0. Fri­day: France v Mex­ico, 1pm; Spain v Rus­sia, 3.30; Ire­land v Bel­gium, 6pm.

Pho­tograp: Don­all Farmer/inpho

It’s all too much for John Jack­son as Ire­land’s hopes of mak­ing it to the London Olympics are dashed by a late de­flected shot in yes­ter­day’s qual­i­fier final against Korea in Belfield.

Au­drey O’flynn: af­ter scor­ing against Rus­sia yes­ter­day

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