A heroic late fightback saw Ireland salvage what could be a crucial point in their Belfius EuroHockey Championships campaign, coming back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 with Scotland in Antwerp.
Tim Cross and Shane O’Donoghue both scored in quick succession in the last five minutes to complete the comeback and earn a point. It means, at the very least, they are just about still alive in the semi-final chase going into their final group game against Germany.
In a lively first quarter, Scotland were first to show what they can offer in front of goal, Andy Bull’s corner push hitting the post after Jamie Carr got a crucial boot to the shot.
Ireland replied in kind, making most of the play with a speedy set of counter-attacks and they went in front in the 12th minute when John Jackson stole possession in the left corner. He crossed through a forest of legs to find Shane O’Donoghue unmarked and he picked his spot for his second goal of the tournament.
They looked the more likely to add to their total until the last few minutes of the second half but a late Scottish salvo put the pressure on. Lee Morton delivered the perfect ball and Kenny Bain stepped in front of his marker to deftly touch in for 1-1 in the 28th minute.
Scotland then carried that momentum into the third quarter, moving in front for the first time from their third penalty corner. The first drag was saved by Mark Ingram but Bain was on hand to poach the rebound.
It gave them a noticeable lift in confidence as they made most of the attacking moves. Murray Collins did get a yellow card but it didn’t slow their momentum and in his absence, Alan Forsyth was only denied by an amazing Ingram save.
It became 3-1 when Craig Falconer got in behind his man on the left side, spun around his marker and flicked into the top of the goal.
Ireland were in a desperate position but they got a lifeline via Tim Cross’s first goal in green, a wonderful shot from right to left in the circle. That came with five minutes to go and they went on to win two penalty corners in the endgame, one of which was given as a stroke after a video review.
O’Donoghue kept his nerve and flicked into the left of the goal for 3-3. And it might have been even better but Sean Murray saw Tommy Alexander somehow save his deflection in the last minute.
“We back ourselves in the way we play to get a result,” Cross said after inspiring the comeback. “We had patches where we were loose across the whole field and, in international hockey, teams will punish you.
“We managed to fight back at the end which was class by us but we just need to bring that energy to all four quarters rather than patches of it.
“It keeps us alive and anything can still happen. We got into Germany positive and looking to win – there’s always a chance if we turn up and play our best stuff.”
As for his first goal in green, he added: “The ball just sat up nicely from Robbo [Robson], got a good piece of it on the half volley and it went sort of where I was aiming! 3-1 down, you need something from anyone – a big tackle, big corners or big goals will bring that energy. It could have been anyone who got the goal – I would have been as excited!”
Ireland are back in action on Tuesday at 2.45pm (Irish time) against Germany.
Ireland: J Carr, J Jackson, J Bell, E Magee, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, M Robson, B Walker, D Walsh, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: T Cross, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, S Loughrey, S Cole, M Ingram
Scotland: T Alexander, C Duke, M Bremner, A Bull, A Forsyth, L Morton, K Bain, M Collins, D Riddell, E Greaves, C MacKenzie
Subs: T Atkins, C Falconer, C Golden, A McQuade, N Parkes, G Byers, D Forrester