Ireland added Hockey World League Round 2 gold on Sunday evening to their all-important ticket to the next phase of the competition with a 4-2 shoot-out win over France at Stormont.
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 rammed home the opening goal with a low bullet down the middle.
The third quarter provided more of the same before Ireland stirred in the closing quarter, rattling the French who were reduced to nine men for various indiscretions.
During that time, Gormley won Ireland’s only corner which Shane O’Donoghue drove home to make it 1-1 with eight minutes to go.
Jonny McKee and Lee Cole then both stung the palms of Arthut Thieffry in a rousing finale.
In the shoot-out Conor Harte, Eugene Magee, Cole and McKee all scored while David Harte’s pair of saves ensured victory.
For 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.
Fulton 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. 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.”
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.”
The tournament also featured a new captain with Jonathan Bell shining whilst donning the armband.
Looking back on the competition, he said that taking on the new role was made easy by the players around him.
“I really enjoyed it. The guys aren’t difficult to lead because they are all self-motivated and self-driven guys. It’s just about creating an environment and a culture for the young guys to thrive.
“Ireland are ranked 10th in the world now and that brings expectation. You may have younger players coming in but you are playing for the Irish men’s team which brings a level of performance and we got that. Regardless of the age group, you expect a performance from an Irish senior men’s team and that’s what we got from them.”
Ireland will next play at World League Round 3 in South Africa in July before contesting the European Championships in August in Amsterdam.