Saturday 24 February 2018

Jackson leads by example to save Irish status

Hockey David Medcalf

Ireland's men have held on to top-flight status but only after suffering a real fright at the European championships in Antwerp.

The 3-3 draw with tournament whipping boys Czech Republic yesterday gave them the point they needed to avoid the relegation fate suffered by the Irish women on Saturday.

But it proved a scarily close contest, which required a late comeback from Andrew Meredith's team.

The Czech underdogs pounced on early defensive errors to race into a shock 2-0 lead with just 11 minutes played.

Conor Harte steadied the ship with a low flicked shot at a penalty corner which left the score 1-2 at the break. However, when Ondrej Vudmaska scored his second with a shot that went whistling past 'keeper Davy Harte's ear, the odds on an upset shortened considerably.

It required goals from two defenders to pull Ireland out of the crisis with barely 10 minutes to spare.

First, Stuart Loughrey burst upfield to dive at the feet of the Czech 'keeper and deflect home a cross Peter Caruth had drilled into the danger area from the right.

Then captain John Jackson slapped a shot at a penalty corner which miraculously found the gap between goalie Filip Neusser's legs to equalise.

The result edged the Irish one point ahead of Poland in the final table and safely into sixth place.

However, there was no such luck for Ireland's women as they failed to capitalise on a bright start against Scotland, defeat consigning them to seventh place out of eight.

They appeared set fair when UCD's Anna O'Flanagan gave them the lead but the girls in green later crumbled in the face of Scottish excellence at the set-pieces, exiting tamely in the end on a 3-1 scoreline.

Irish Independent

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