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Ireland's history boys dreaming of medal glory in European hockey championships

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland men are refusing to rest on their laurels following their history-making run to the European championships semi-finals in London.

Coach Craig Fulton and his squad revelled in reaching the last four for the first time on Tuesday but they are refusing to sit back and relax and are hoping to return home with a medal.

It's going to be hard, as they face World No.2 Netherlands in today's semi (1.15pm), a team they have beaten only once in almost 40 meetings and who are prolific scorers and have yet to concede a goal in these championships.

This will be the third time in five days the Irish face one of the world's top four hockey nations and there's no doubt they go into the game as underdogs.

But after winning the World League 2 tournament in San Diego in March, finishing a fine fifth in the World League 3 series in Antwerp in July, and now putting in tremendous performances against Germany and Belgium on their way to the Euro semis, you can't blame them for believing that a medal of some description remains a possibility.

"Reaching the Euro semis was a great day for Irish hockey and for everyone involved in making our dream a reality," said Fulton.

"There is a very small difference between success and failure but we have put in enough detail to get a big result in a major competition when it counts."

Much will depend on how top quality keeper David Harte and his back four perform against the classy Dutch.

If they hold tight, then the creativity of John Jackson going forward with Eugene Magee and Shane O'Donoghue, and the predatory touches of Peter Caruth, Kyle Good and Alan Sothern, might just create another upset.

If not, the Irish could end up in a bronze medal play-off with old rivals England unless Bobby Crutchley's team can see off Germany in their semi-final (7.30pm).

Belfast Telegraph


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