Gr-eight Irish in Europe's top six after crushing Russia
Ireland are now officially among Europe's top six hockey nations after they crushed Russia 8-2 at the Eurohockey Nations Cup in Germany yesterday.
Five Ulstermen were among the goals as Paul Revington's squad grow stronger and stronger as the tournament progresses.
The hefty scoreline now assures the Irish of staying in the top-flight for the first time since the format changed back in the 1990s - they are usually relegated immediately after promotion - and also guarantees them of at least sixth place.
And there is a good chance of them edging up to fifth place if they can beat former European champions Spain in their final game tomorrow morning.
"As in life, there are certain stepping stones to keep improving," said Revington. "This is a building block.
"We are performing more consistently as the tournament progresses, which is what we anticipated. We are scoring more goals then ever, but there is still more work to be done defensively."
The Irish went at the Russian throats from the hit-off - so much so that they were 5-1 ahead at the interval.
Michael Watt tucked away John Jermyn's penalty corner rebound in 14 minutes; Mitch Darling rounded the keeper for the second in 21 minutes and when Eugene Magee converted another corner in 24 minutes the Russians changed their goalkeeper.
It made little difference as some superb inter-changing saw Timmy Cockram score the fourth and David Ames the fifth.
The Russians pulled one back before the interval and after Geoff McCabe made it 6-1 early in the second-half, they scored their second with a classy lob over goalkeeper David Harte.
Two John Jermyn penalty corner drag-flicks left the Irish with plenty to celebrate.
Spain beat France 2-1 which means a draw between them and Ireland in tomorrow's final game would leave the Irish fifth, while the final will be between Holland and either Germany or England whose game was delayed due to heavy rain.
Eurohockey Nations Cup: 5th/8th play-offs: Ireland 8 Russia 2; Spain 2 France1 Semi-finals: Belgium 2 Holland 4.
Tomorrow: Final: Holland v Germany (3pm); 3rd/4th play-off: Belgium v England (12.30pm); 5th/8th play-offs: Ireland v Spain (10am); France v Russia (8am).