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Trapdoor opens on Irish despite double digit victory

 

By Graham Hamilton

It's not often you see a team absolutely devastated after winning a game 11-2 ... but that was the case for the Irish U21s in yesterday's final day at the EuroHockey Junior series in Valencia.

It was one of Ireland's biggest wins at this level as they thrashed Portugal, but in the end they required more goals to overtake Austria on goal difference for the vital sixth place finish.

The outcome is that seventh out of eight wasn't good enough and not only will the U21s lose their top-flight status and instead take their place in the 2019 'B' Division series, but they will also sit out the forthcoming Junior World Cup.

It hasn't been a good campaign for Jonny Caren's lads, even taking into consideration the fact that they lost four of their star players to the senior squad a week earlier.

Defeats to Germany (4-2) and Belgium (3-1) were expected but not the disappointing 4-4 draw against Austria.

And a crushing 7-1 defeat against England on Saturday left them with a mountain to climb against Portugal - they needed a 19-goal swing to stay up.

Austria went down by a single goal to England yesterday morning, and so the Irish lads were left needing to beat Portugal by 18 goals to survive.

Luke Madeley chipped in with five in the 11-2 success, with Simon Wolfe (2), John Mullins, Conor Empey, Geoff Cole and Julian Dale getting the others.

Netherlands won the gold medals after a shoot-out win over Belgium while Germany were awarded bronze after hosts Spain were unable to field due to a virus in their camp.

Meanwhile, Ulster's U16s won silver medals at the UK School Games in Loughborough.

Adam Louden's lads opened with a 4-2 defeat to England Blue, with Fergus Gibson (Sullivan) and Owen McElhinney (Methody) their marksmen and followed it up with a 3-1 win over Scotland, with Gibson on the mark along with Mark Barlow (Banbridge Acad.) and Harry Dow (Bangor Grammar).

Their third game produced a 4-0 win over England White, with Gibson getting two and Matthew Morris (Sullivan) and Oliver Kidd (Friends) the others and they finished with a 5-5 draw against England Red, with Dow and McElhinney getting two each as well as Gibson.

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