Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland duo out to turn bronze into gold in Rio

By Graham Hamilton

Iain Lewers and Mark Gleghorne became the first Ulstermen to win Commonwealth Games hockey medals when they collected bronze at the medal ceremony yesterday afternoon – and the duo insist there is more silverware to come.

Both played key roles as England beat New Zealand 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out after a thrilling 3-3 draw and when the celebrations calm down, they plan to continue their quest for success at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Lewers and Gleghorne have established themselves as regulars in the England line-up since switching from Ireland five years ago and sitting out the automatic three-year ban.

And having also won bronze at the last World League finals and a fourth place finish in the recent World Cup finals, they believe that the current squad will have matured nicely for the next Olympics.

"This is a good squad with age on our side, and although it was great to come away with something tangible in a bronze medal after a series of fourth-placed finishes, we must continue to get better and aim for silver and gold," said Lewers. "It has been a long four months for us, with the Games coming so close after the World Cup, but all our hard work has paid off.

"There was a lot of emotion during the penalty shoot-out but both teams had prepared for such situations."

And Gleghorne believes there is better to come too.

"Our aim has to be among the medals regularly, and I'm hoping to go all the way to Rio with this squad.

"Although I managed a couple of goals, I would've liked to have scored a few more, but at least I contributed to two in the final game.

"The one disappointment was losing the pool game to New Zealand because it meant meeting World No.1 Australia in the semi-finals, and they beat us 4-1 – they are smashing everybody at the moment!

"But now I'm absolutely shattered.

"Don't forget that the lengthy opening ceremony went deep into the night, and we had to get up early to prepare for the first game," he added.

"And then to finish the tournament with back-to-back games with a medal at stake, it was an emotional drain as well as physically.

"Finally there was the closing ceremony late into the night ... and I had to get up early to head to the Lake District where I am a groomsman at a wedding!"

It looked bad for England in the bronze play-off when they went a goal down to Simon Child after 11 minutes, had a goal disallowed a minute later, and then had Lewers sin-binned for five minutes after having words with the umpire following several decisions that didn't go their way. But six minutes from the interval Gleghorne's cross caused problems to the New Zealand defence and Alistair Brodgon forced home the equaliser.

Then two minutes later Ashley Jackson put England ahead for the first time with a trademark penalty corner drag flick into the roof of the net but the Black Sticks quickly levelled when Andy Hayward also converted a corner award.

Gleghorne was involved again five minutes into the second half when another of his crosses caused havoc and although the umpire waved play on, the Ulsterman requested a video referral and a penalty corner was awarded.

Jackson again found the top corner to give England a 3-2 lead but Simon Child offered New Zealand a lifeline when he made it 3-3 from the top of the circle and so the game went into the dreaded penalty shoot-out – not to be confused with penalty strokes – when five nominated players are each granted eight seconds to try beat the goalkeeper.

Hugo Inglis and Steve Edwards both scored but England keeper George Pinner saved from Blair Hilton and Simon Child, and then with Jackson, Nick Caitlin and Barry Middleton all converting their efforts, it was down to England's fourth man Simon Mantell to do the business.

Keeper Devon Manchester impeded Mantell and so a penalty stroke was awarded and Jackson stepped up to put it away to start a double celebration as the English girls had won silver the previous evening.

Australia won the men's final 4-2 against India, with Chris Ciriello grabbing a hat-trick of penalty corners to finishing joint top scorer with Jackson.

In the other classification games, South Africa beat Canada 7-3 for fifth place, Malaysia beat Scotland 2-1 for seventh, and Wales beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 for ninth.

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