Ireland push champions to limit in opener
England 4 Ireland 2
A rousing start and a storming finish were not enough to rescue a draw for Ireland from holders England at the Men's European Hockey Championships in Monchengladbach, Germany yesterday.
To rub salt into the wounds, Belfast native Iain Lewers was included in the opposition line-up after declaring for the Auld Enemy, who are guaranteed a place at next year's London Olympics in the guise of GB as hosts.
Ireland started brightly and Chris Cargo gave them a deserved lead after 14 minutes. However, they were hauled back to parity by the interval, Matt Daly clipping the ball neatly into the net, with Ireland short-staffed after Paul Gleghorne was sent to the sin-bin on 20 minutes.
England went ahead midway through the second half when skipper Barry Middleton left goalkeeper Davy Harte swishing at fresh air with a delightfully lofted effort. And they went 3-1 up 10 minutes later when Ashley Jackson found the target over Ronan Gormley's head at a penalty corner awarded amidst Irish protests.
The setback prompted a late surge of renewed confidence from the team in green, with John Jackson and David Ames orchestrating the attacks.
A foul on Cargo opened the way for John Jermyn to reduce the difference to the minimum at a corner with eight minutes left.
The Cork hitman's attempt at an equaliser, again at the set-piece, prompted a scintillating flying save from James Fair and then Middleton's impeccably timed scoring dive to meet Rob Moore's cross put the champions back into the comfort zone.
Ireland -- D Harte, J Jackson, G McCabe, R Gormley, M Watt, E Magee, M Darling, T Cockram, D Ames, P Gleghorne, C Harte. Subs: C Cargo, J Brennan, J Jermyn, P Caruth, M McConnell.
England -- J Fair, G Kirkham, R Mantell, A Jackson, R Moore, A Dixon, A Wilson, B Middleton, J Tindall, M Pearn, I Lewers. Subs: R Alexander, M Daly, I Mackay, N Catlin, R Smith.