By Staff Reporter

IRELAND’S dream of Olympic hockey qualification ended cruelly with just two seconds of the final remaining.

The Green Machine, labelled thus by their enthusiastic supporters, played their opening match of the tournament on Saturday 10 March. The team started well with an encouraging 6-1 victory over Russia.

Annadale star Peter Caruth, in top form throughout the tournament, scored in this match and cracked in another the following day in a convincing 12-0 result over a shell-shocked Ukraine.

After a Monday rest day a sell-out crowd filled the National Stadium at University College Dublin for the Irish match against tournament favourites Korea who are ranked sixth in the world.

In an exciting match, played at great pace, Ireland gained a well-deserved point in a 1-1 draw.

Two days later a 3-0 victory over Chile ensured that Ireland remained in the hunt for a place in the final.

St Patrick’s Day opened with a Korean win over Russia guaranteeing the victors a place in the final.

Ireland’s superior goal difference meant that a draw with second favourites Malaysia, ranked 13th against Ireland’s 16th in the World rankings, would suffice to join Korea in the final.

This was always going to be a very difficult match against skilled opponents. Ireland were up to the task and proved the better side in a 1-1 draw.

 

Final

Ireland were through to the final against Korea and the Olympic dreams were still alive.

On Sunday every seat was taken in a packed ground some two hours before the big match with many disappointed supporters outside the ground hoping to pick up a ticket.

The sell-out notices had been posted some days before as supporters displayed their confidence that Ireland would reach the final.

Annadale Hockey Club members travelled to Dublin to support Ireland and of course their own Peter Caruth who played in all six matches.

The pre final excitement was intense with the crowd singing and chanting, creating a tremendous atmosphere.

For the players this was the biggest match of their lives with the biggest prize – a place in the London Olympics.

The teams were introduced to the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, and after the National Anthems and a rousing ‘Ireland’s Call’ the final was under way with thunderous encouragement for the Green Machine.

Ireland started well, moving the ball sharply around the pitch seeking a line into the Korean circle.

The pressure paid off in the 13th minute with the first penalty corner of the match.

John Jermyn’s drag flick was saved but Peter Caruth speedily pounced on the rebound to score to give Ireland the perfect start with a 1-0 lead.

Korea’s response demonstrated why they are one of the top sides in the world. However, the Irish defence held firm. Then with six minutes to half time and Ireland down to ten men, following a tempoary sending off, Korea equalised through Yong Nam Lee.

Ireland were first to show in the second half with a dangerous run up the right wing from Michael Watt and then after further pressure the Irish forwards narrowly failed to get a touch to two hard crosses through the Korean circle.

It was end to end play, with supporters’ hearts racing in the excitement, when in the 55th minute, Timmy Cockram powerfully flicked home a penalty corner to regain the lead with a 2-1 scoreline.

Could Ireland hold on for the final 15 minutes? Sadly no, as three minutes later they conceded a penalty stroke after a Korean fast break from the halfway line. Woo Hyun Nam made no mistake from the spot and once again it was all to play for.

Both teams were giving everything to score the winner as the clock ran down.

With just eight seconds remaining there was more drama to come. Korea were awarded a controversial free hit outside the Irish circle.

The free was fired into the circle and into the net. The umpire signalled a long corner but Korea claimed that Nam Young Lee had got a touch on the ball in the circle deflecting the ball past keeper David Harte.

The clocked was stopped with two seconds remaining. The Korean appeal was referred to the video umpire and silence dropped on the ground as players and supporters held their breath awaiting the decision. The body language of the players on both teams was a strong indication that the decision would not go Ireland’s way and eventually the answer came back – goal for Korea.

So it was joy for Korea and heartbreak for Ireland.

The Irish boys can hold their heads high after a magnificent display throughout the week.

There were ten Ulstermen in the Irish Squad of 18 with former Annadale manager Peter Jackson as Irish manager.

On the plus side, and no consolation to the devastated Irish players, the side were unbeaten in the pool games leading to the final.

They were the tournament’s leading goalscorers with 25 goals and had the best defensive record conceding just six goals, while Timmy Cockram won the award for leading scorer in the tournament.

 

Proud

From the Annadale viewpoint, the club were very proud of clubman Peter Caruth’s superb performances and look forward to his return to club hockey and the final matches in the Premier League.

Peter was clearly deflated after the final game but in typical Caruth manner bounced back in great style, although no doubt hurting inside at the tournament dinner later that evening.

Speaking to the South Belfast News  at the dinner, Peter acknowledged the inspirational support of the Irish fans and also his Annadale clubmates.

He cannot wait, he admitted, to putting the Annadale shirt on his back and helping the team consolidate their league position and a place in next season’s Irish Hockey League competition.

There are always fresh challenges ahead in hockey and Peter Caruth is ready to take them on.

 

Weekend fixtures

 

O’NE 1918 Premier League

Annadale v Lisnagarvey

 

Junior League 1

Lisnagarvey II v Annadale II

 

Junior League 2

Antrim II v Annadale III

 

Junior League 3

Annadale IV v Armagh II

 

Junior Shield Semi-Final

Annadale V v NICS III

 

Please follow and like us:

Tags: , ,