Belgium blow puts Irish on hard road to Rio
A last-minute goal by Belgium captain John-John Dohmen ensured that Ireland will play world champions Australia in a daunting quarter-final of the World Hockey League. Yesterday's defeat in Antwerp to the side ranked fourth in the world was a close run affair however, with Loick Luypaert and Shane O'Donoghue exchanging first-half penalty corners.
Belgium 2 Ireland 1
The Irish then ran into sin-bin problems, down to eight players at one stage, with Ronan Gormley, Chris Cargo and Paul Gleghorne all sidelined by the umpires.
Throughout the disciplinary problems, the players remaining on the pitch ran themselves ragged for the cause, with Davy Harte pulling off a couple of great saves and Ronan Gormley returning to tidy up whatever made it past the lanky keeper.
Harte's availability after sustaining a neck injury in Friday's costly defeat by Malaysia was a fillip to the Green Machine.
Unfortunately, this time it was the turn of twin brother Conor Harte to take a knock, picking up a shoulder problem which will likely rule the centre half out of the remainder of the tournament.
In his absence from the 5th minute on, Chris Cargo was outstanding for Ireland in midfield and front runner Kyle Good also had one of his best games for his country.
With only a win enough to steer the side away from the impressive Aussies, coach Craig Fulton played the last few minutes without a goalie but the gamble only allowed Dohmen in for the breakaway winner at the death, allowing Belgium to top Pool B, while Ireland finished fourth.
With a top-six finish in Antwerp probably sufficing to earn a spot at the Olympics in Rio, even defeat on Wednesday to the so far rampant world champs need not be a disaster but the Irish are certainly taking the hard route to Rio.
Ireland - D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, C Cargo, A Sothern, P Caruth, M Darling, S O'Donoghue, M Watt, P Gleghorne, C Harte. Subs - K Shimmins, J Bell, D Carlisle, E Magee, S Dowds, K Good.