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'One of the worst decisions in sport I have seen' - Ireland coach fuming as Olympic dreams shattered


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Ireland players react after losing to Canada

Ireland players react after losing to Canada

Twenty-four hours on, Irish coach Mark Tumilty says he still cannot fathom how his side’s Olympic dream was ripped apart by a final-second video umpire decision in Vancouver. (stock photo)

Twenty-four hours on, Irish coach Mark Tumilty says he still cannot fathom how his side’s Olympic dream was ripped apart by a final-second video umpire decision in Vancouver. (stock photo)

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Ireland players react after losing to Canada

Twenty-four hours on, Irish coach Mark Tumilty says he still cannot fathom how his side's Olympic dream was ripped apart by a final-second video umpire decision in Vancouver.

Leading 6-5 on aggregate, Canada threw one last attack forward, with James Wallace spilling over in the corner, and the final whistle blew with the on-field umpire signalling a free out.

It sparked Irish celebrations but, with a video review still in their pocket, Canada did what any side would and put in a speculative claim for a penalty corner for a "physical tackle" from Lee Cole.

Video umpire Diego Barbas contrived to award the higher sanction of a penalty stroke, a decision that drew little belief far beyond the Irish camp, with Australian Olympic gold medallists and even some Canadian ex-players questioning the validity.

Converted

It led to a converted stroke which sent the game to a shoot-out that Canada ultimately won in sudden death.

For Tumilty, it was the "lowest moment in my sporting career".

"They went to their appeal which I totally understand because we all would have gambled," Tumilty said.

"Worst-case scenario, we would have to defend a corner. But when you see the video, we should have had to defend nothing.

"Normally in any sport, there is some discussion - 'was it a penalty, wasn't it a penalty?' I have not read one post not calling it a farce or a travesty but it's one we will have to live with.

"It is one of the worst decisions in sport that I have seen but it doesn't surprise me. That's the sad thing."

Eugene Magee, a veteran of 295 international caps, has already indicated he will retire, while several others could follow suit with the next competitive games not until 2021.

It means an ignominious end to what has been a golden generation of Irish men's hockey.

"I have lads who ended their international careers on that pitch yesterday. They should be going to Tokyo," Tumilty added.

"We did have enough chances to qualify ourselves without going through that; 3-1 up in a shoot-out. We do need to appreciate that but it should not have got to that stage without a horrific decision.

"There are guys who have probably played in Ireland's best period ever, qualifying for Olympic Games, winning European bronze, getting back to the World Cup.

"A fantastic group of guys who have given a hell of a lot of commitment - it's just so hard to swallow.

"We will never forget that. I can't get my head around it - going from the elation of going to Tokyo to a random decision."

Darkened

His mood was darkened further when he was told it was just the video umpire's second game in the box at international level - he has done 91 on the pitch - and first men's game.

"That is pathetic - I wouldn't put a player on the pitch for his first game at this level. If we can't run a proper video referral system with the right angles, it shouldn't be run at all.

"Nobody has spoken to us; nobody can tell us why the stroke was given, nothing.

"It's heart-breaking. I have lots of lows in my career but this is the lowest.

"But it is about these 20 guys, the bigger squad, and the efforts of the support staff. The players looked fresh, sharp, and I like to think a decent style of hockey.

"The guys enjoyed the six weeks (build-up) and I definitely did - they were a brilliant bunch to work with.

"To be treated like that, with the sacrifices they made with their careers, relationships suffering, just to give it a go at the Olympics."

Irish Independent