Mark Tumilty eyeing win over Italy
Ireland’s men can potentially pin down the first of this week’s major targets on Tuesday afternoon if they can back up Sunday’s 2-1 win over Poland with another result against Italy.
Johnny McKee’s last minute winner over the hosts gave Ireland a dream start to the competition and, with seven new caps and eight tournament debuts under their belt, they look ahead to a new challenge.
Victory would all but guarantee a place in the semi-finals of the EuroHockey Championship II in Gniezno and assure them of a top five finish from the eight-team tournament, bringing with it a place in October’s World Cup qualifiers.
Ireland have a great record against the 22nd world ranked Italians, winning the last five meetings between the sides.
But, for Mark Tumilty’s young side, they know it will be no pushover against the world number 22 ranked Italians who sprung a 4-1 result over Croatia on day one.
That was a contentious affair with Italy only going 2-1 up with nine minutes to go via a goal that led to several minutes of discussion over whether the beneficiaries had an extra player on the pitch at the time.
“They have experience and are passionate so it’s another good challenge,” Tumilty said.
“A win there will probably give us a place in that World Cup qualifier.
“It’s nice to have that kind of reward out there and if we can get it early, it could give us some freedom for the rest of the tournament.”
He added that the many new faces are “well capable of playing at this level”.
“They will grow into the next few games and we expect them to be better against Italy on Tuesday. Really pleased with their work and effort and it doesn’t come as a shock to me as we really believe in them,” said Tumilty
Sunday’s hero McKee concurred, adding the side had to roll with many punches after a Covid-19 close contact situation emerged from their flight which meant a number of changes to the line-up.
“It had been a very tough week for everyone,” the Banbridge man said.
“There were a lot of distractions and we are such a young team. For the young guys coming in, playing your first international tournament is tough enough but doing that with Covid [and quarantine], the guys did really well.
"Everyone should be very proud of themselves, especially the youngsters.”