Ireland move a step closer to Rio Olympic qualification

Owen Magee breaks for Banbridge
Owen Magee breaks for Banbridge

Job done! That was the message coming from San Diego, California after Ireland defeated Canada 2-0 to qualify for the all important World League 3 series.

Qualifying for the next stage brings Ireland a step closer to the ultimate goal of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio as a top six finish in the WL3 will book them a place.

Late last night Ireland played surprise package Austria in the WL2 final, but with their place already booked for the WL3 the Irish guys were expected to close off the competition in style.

They had already met Austria in the pool stages, defeating them 3-1, but an Austrian side, that contained several players from their indoor team that clinched silver at the recent World Indoor championships, had all the hallmarks of giving Ireland a run for their money.

The Irish had to dig deep against Canada in the semis, as the two highest ranked sides in the competition went toe to toe, and with automatic WL3 qualification at stake neither side were prepared to make any mistakes.

Canada were using the aerial ball to test the Irish defence as they repeatedly hoisted the ball at the Irish back line forcing a couple of penalty corners only to be denied by David Harte in the Irish goal.

With both teams locked out going into the interval, it was Canada who started the second half the strongest.

And with the Canadians pushing forward Ireland broke from defence to win a penalty corner which saw Shane O’Donoghue launched high into the roof of the net.

Two minutes later O’Donoghue doubled his and Ireland’s tally as he slammed home another penalty corner, which took Ireland to the final.

Speaking after the game Irish manager, Peter Jackson said: “The players deserved their victory in a controlled and disciplined performance with everyone giving 100%.  

 “Our primary objective was always to finish above Canada and we achieved that today. We have set ourselves a benchmark this tournament but take no opponent for granted. 

“At this level, every game is tough and the winning stakes are high and today was both physical and mentally demanding. We look forward to the final against Austria.”

Just before the game against Canada, Ulster’s Chris Cargo was presented with his 100th cap, by Irish president, Richard Kendrick.

Canada face Russia in the 3rd and 4th place play-off.