Ireland end EuroHockey campaign on winning note in Poland

Teenager Kevin O’Dea’s sharp double earned Ireland a third-place finish from the men’s EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno, beating hosts Poland 4-2 on Saturday.

Sunday, 22nd August 2021, 4:57 pm

Ireland produced a super first half, controlling possession and netting two strong goals via O’Dea and Johnny McKee.

But Poland stormed back into contention in the third quarter amid a penalty corner exchanger, Wojciech Rutkowksi and Jacek Kurowski netting either side of a Shane O’Donoghue effort, making it 3-2 with 15 minutes left.

In a wide open final quarter, it was O’Dea who settled matters when he swatted in with three minutes to go.

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Ireland's Kevin O'Dea scored two goals in the weekend EuroHockey Championship II win over Poland. Pic by Adrian Boehm.

The old adage to “always win your last game” was achieved to cap an encouraging week in which Mark Tumilty handed out seven new caps and landed the primary goal of a World Cup qualifier ticket.

All the while, the side rolled with the punches with two players ruled out a week before travelling and a further two – Luke Madeley and Jamie Carr – spending the entire week in quarantine under Polish regulations following a close contact case on their flight.

In the circumstances, it gave coach Tumilty plenty of encouraging food for thought despite the disappointment of Friday’s semi-final defeat to Scotland.

“I thought some of our hockey was excellent; guys definitely delivered,” said Tumilty. “When I reviewed the Scotland semi-final, we did deliver at times but not for long enough so this was nice and positive.

“Things were definitely challenging with Covid at times; it is a great learning for the squad.

“Twenty bad minutes against Scotland cost us greatly; if we had played in that phase like we did today, it would be a completely different outcome.

“We can’t afford to have that at any level and we need to take that and make sure we change that happening, that we don’t have those spells which cost us.

“On the plus side, Kevin [O’Dea] scoring three goals from midfield in his first tournament; a great achievement and shows his potential.

“Very pleased with that and how all the youngsters did.

“Kyle Marshall just received ‘man of the match’ and he has been superb all week.

“James Milliken in goal came in at late notice and I’m happy with how he did, too.

“The older guys also deserve credit for how they helped the performances and how they dealt with the chaos with our preparation.

“Disappointed not to be in the final but pleased to finish on a high.”

For O’Dea, meanwhile, it was a memorable finish to his first international tournament just two months on from his Leaving Certificate.

“We didn’t come into the tournament hoping to win bronze but considering we were in this position, we are pleased to win this one,” he said. “It has been difficult with the Leaving Cert but Eoin (Cunniffe), Mark (Tumilty), Neil (Irwin), Jason (Klinkradt) all prepared me really well.

“Even when I couldn’t come up to training with studies, I was doing all their running (plans).

“It was great coming into the tournament and made the step up not half as bad!”

Ireland were in front in the ninth minute when Peter McKibbin’s powerful ball into the circle found its way to O’Dea at the back post.

It was 2-0 before the end of the first quarter, the second goal a smart move which found McKee.

Poland came more into the contest after the big break and Rutkowski unleashed a perfect shot into the top right corner.

That threat seemed to be quickly quelled when O’Donoghue nailed his fourth goal of the week with a pin-point drag-flick, making it 3-1 to Ireland in the 38th minute.

But the hosts once again were back in contention off Kurowski.

With three minutes to go with Sean Murray and McKee laying on the chance for Ian Stewart. His shot was saved but only fell to a waiting O’Dea.

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