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Captain Bell highlights positives as Ireland beaten by the Netherlands

Jonny Bell
Jonny Bell

Ireland’s men fell to a tough opening 5-1 loss to the reigning champion Netherlands at the Belfius EuroHockey Championships in Antwerp.

They fell 3-0 behind in the first eight minutes to a fired up Dutch side and while they fought back well in the second and third quarters, the world number two side were too strong.

In the first three minutes, Seve van Ass burst into the circle to pick out the top corner with an unstoppable reverse-stick shot; Ireland did call for a video review, feeling he used the back of his stick illegally but the goal stood.

Soon after, Mirco Pruijser was fed with his back to goal and he wriggled out of a tackle and pumped in a vicious shot. Bjorn Kellerman did likewise from further out and Ireland were left with a mountain to climb.

After the initial shell-shock, Ireland began to put some good phases together, most notably when Ben Walker clipped a foot for a penalty corner. Shane O’Donoghue did the rest with his 107th international goal with a low ripper past Sam van der Ven to give hope.

Eugene Magee then stung the palm of Sam van der Ven as the Dutch looked rattled, particularly when Jelle Galema was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for an off-the-ball incident.

Some of the tackles the Green Machine put in at this stage were huge, stretching every sinew to stay in the contest.

Kellerman, though, got a killer fourth goal in brilliant style, a perfect strike while running away from goal with an upright volley. Mark Ingram made some outstanding saves, too, but could not keep out Mirco Pruijser’s perfect neat post touch in the closing quarter.

For Irish captain Jonny Bell, he admitted it was a tough day in the teeming rain.

“We started very poorly and they caught us on the hop a bit, scoring those three goals. It’s a long way back from there but we did regroup and got one back. At times, we played up to the level required and there were good signs. But for long periods, we just weren’t on the money.”

Bell also praised the two goalkeepers – Jamie Carr and Mark Ingram – who shared the duties in the stead of the injured David Harte.

“Both guys have been training with the squad a long time and we are lucky to have a pool of really good keepers. It was always going to be tough but the guys performed well and will kick on. Our tournament will start tomorrow; we will have to dress ourselves and respond.”

That is a reference to Game Two against Scotland at 2.45pm (Irish time) in their second game. The Scots lost 9-0 to Germany in the other group game in Antwerp but did push Ireland close in a two-game series in Glasgow last month.

“Always a huge battle. Any recent game has been a gritty affair and both teams will be up for it. We need to dust ourselves down, look at the errors we made and correct them.”

The Irish women, meanwhile, will start their campaign on Sunday at 10.15am (Irish time) against England.

Ireland: J Carr, J Jackson, J Bell, E Magee, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, B Walker, D Walsh, P Gleghorne, C Harte

Subs: T Cross, M Robson, J Duncan, L Cole, S Loughrey, S Cole, M Ingram

Netherlands: P Blaak, J de Geus, B Bakker, S van Ass, S de Wijn, S Baart, M Pruijser, B Kellerman, T Brinkman, J Janssen, M van der Weerden

Subs: J Hertzberger, L Balk, G Schuurman, D van Puffelen, J de Mol, J Galema, S van der Ven

Umpires: B Goentgen (GER), P Walker (ENG)

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