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Irish hit summit but old rivals England lie in wait

Ireland 7 Poland 1

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland remain firmly in the frame for a semi-final place at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam after their 7-1 romp over Poland yesterday put them top of their pool on goal difference.

And now it's old rivals England - with three former Irish players in their ranks - up next in their final pool game tomorrow (1.45pm) to decide whether it will be a place in the last four or the dreaded fifth to eighth place relegation play-offs later in the week.

The 1-1 draw against Germany on Sunday could prove invaluable for Craig Fulton's men, particularly as the World No.3 nation beat England 4-3 yesterday, which means Bobby Crutchley's lads have to beat the Irish to reach the last four.

With Banbridge strikers Eugene Magee (broken ankle) and Johnny McKee (broken collarbone) ruled out of the Euros, there were many who wondered where the Irish goals were going to come from this time.

But the Green Machine were two up against Poland inside 10 minutes, four up at half-time and eventually ran out convincing 7-1 winners, with the young players shaping up well.

There's no doubt that Lisnagarvey's Sean Murray has come of age at international level - the 20-year-old midfielder opened the scoring with a crisp shot from the top of the circle and he pulled the strings in many of Ireland's attacking moves.

"It was a fantastic result, and to have scored seven goals was great," said the man of the match. "We may be missing players through injury and work commitments but the young guys gel well together. Now we can rest up and look forward to a great match against England."

Murray's early goal gave the Irish the confidence to go forward in numbers, and fellow Ulsterman Neal Glassey got the second, with Shane O'Donoghue's penalty corner conversion and Alan Sothern's deft flick over the keeper from Matthew Nelson's pass taking it to 4-0.

O'Donoghue converted another penalty corner but Patryk Pawlak pulled one back to spoil keeper David Harte's hopes of keeping a clean sheet in his 200th international.

There were further chances as well as a goal was ruled out after a Kirk Shimmins cross was deflected into the net, the umpire having earlier blown for a penalty corner.

But Nelson made it six following a penalty corner and Stuart Loughrey wrapped things up by guiding in Ben Walker's cross.

Today, meanwhile, it's the Ireland women's turn against Germany (1.45pm).

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