Euros: Irish dream shattered by Belgians |
September 9, 2003
The Belfast Telegraph
> Page Views 5350
IRELAND'S backroom team are working overtime today to lift morale among their players following yesterday´s failed bid to reach the European Nations' Cup fifth to eighth play-offs.
Coach John Clarke and assistant Soma Singh had set out their stall to finish in the top eight, thus bettering the previous position of 11th in Padova four years ago, but yesterday´s nailbiting 3-3 draw with Belgium blocked them from that particular target and possibly puts them out of the proposed new eight- team Division A series in two years time.
Yes, they can attain ninth place by beating Switzerland tomorrow and then either Russia or Italy in the classification game on Friday.
But the players were absolutely gutted after having the victory they so badly needed against Belgium snatched from them right at the death.
Cookstown's Andy Barbour scored his first international goal to put Ireland ahead after 28 minutes, but 60 seconds later Belgium were level via a Loic Vandeweghe penalty corner.
Barbour then linked up with Chris Jackson to provide a chance which Justin Sherriff took on 32 minutes.
But Belgium drew level in the 45th minute through Jean Philippe Brule.
Stephen Butler put Ireland ahead again with 13 minutes left, but there was agony for the Irish when Xavier Reckinger scored a last-gasp equaliser.
It was the same old story from Irish teams - failure to convert sufficient penalty corners, failure to put away good chances, and some disputed umpiring decisions.
The Irish converted just one of seven penalty corners, following on from their one in twelve in the 4-1 defeat by France on Saturday. Graham Shaw and Justin Sherriff missed one-on-one chances against the Belgian goalkeeper.
And both Mark Irwin and Gordon Elliott had goals disallowed.
Ireland had three players in the sin bin during the second half and the Belgians seized the initiative, scoring twice when Ireland were understrength.
Nevertheless, it was rough justice. The players had put in considerable preparation and sacrifices during the build-up and deserved better.
They are fitter than any previous Irish team and the 12 goals from the five pool games is an Irish record by far.
Not a bit of wonder the players are devastated. And that´s where the backroom staff come in. If ever the players need a lift, it's now.
Tomorrow: 9th to 12th crossover game - Ireland v Switzerland (2pm).
Your opinion counts.
Rate this article or enter your comments below.