Ireland 1 (McKee) Canada 3 (Johnston, Scholfield, Tupper). Aggregate score Ireland 6 – 6 Canada, Penalty Shoot Out Canada 5, Ireland 4.
The Irish Men’s Hockey team took to the pitch in Vancouver this evening for their deciding match for their ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a two-goal lead on aggregate, having won their first leg of the Olympic qualifier 5 goals to 3.
|An early goal from John McKee extended their aggregate lead but Canada came out in more aggressive fashion than the previous day’s match. Despite Ireland holding the majority of the match possession in the first half, Canada had been awarded 7 penalty corners to Ireland’s 2.
In a tense match, with the aggregate score Ireland 6 to Canada’s 5 for the final half of the game, a dramatic last second video referral gave Canada a penalty stroke to bring the aggregate score to 6 – 6. The match went to penalty shoot-out, finishing in sudden death. Canada 5 – 4 Ireland, with the Canadians securing their place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“We probably didn’t play as well as we did yesterday. Canada reacted well to our performance yesterday, however I thought we still created enough chances. The guys dug in very deep there right until the last seconds of the game,” said Head Coach Mark Tumilty speaking after the match.
“I’m so very proud of what the guys have delivered over this last six weeks. It was a difficult period for them. There were a lot of unknown in relation to the coaching setup and that. But they’ve been a fantastic group of players to deal with.
“For some lads that’s their last international game. What a way to go out of international hockey. But they’ve been excellent servants to Irish hockey. They’ve had a lot of highs. This would be one of the major lows. It’s never a nice way to go out of your international career. But they’re a strong group of lads and there’s a lot of talent still in the group. I’m convinced that this group can bounce back.
Asked what went through his mind in the final moments of the match, he replied “We celebrated as if we’d won it. It’s a very tough call. I wouldn’t see too many of those in any level of hockey, to be honest with you – for that to be given. But we had our chances in the shootout as well. Fitzy did very well in goals. That’s the way shootouts go. Listen, they’re potluck.
“Fair play to Canada for their performance today. They hung in there the whole time. Very hard [not] to let their heads drop when we scored early on. But that’s the way it goes. It’s not an easy one to take. It’s probably a real low one. Not easy.”
In a tough match there were strong performances from several Irish players, both experienced and newer members of the squad. Both teams put everything on the line. While the final result is not what the Irish Hockey community was hoping for the team, we’re incredibly proud of their performance.