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It's Bronze or bust for big rivals from the province

By Graham Hamilton

A handful of Ulstermen will be coming home with bronze medals from the European championships being staged in London. But will it be the three lining out for England or the eight featuring for Ireland?

England's agonising penalty shoot-out defeat against Germany on Thursday evening denied them a place in the decider at their home venue and so they must go for bronze this afternoon (2pm) against the Green Machine which has been punching above their weight all week.

The Irish also lost out at the semi-final stage but there was no disgrace in the 1-0 defeat against the Netherlands.

Craig Fulton's boys had never reached the semi-finals before, but they built on their excellent fifth place finish in the World League 3 tournament last month to prove the surprise packet in London and muscle in to the last four at the expense of World No. 4 Belgium.

Yes, it won't be easy against an English side cheered on by a capacity home crowd and, of course, extra spice is added to the game due to the fact that Ulster trio Iain Lewers, Mark Gleghorne and David Ames switched allegiance and will again be facing some of their former colleagues.

Throw in the fact that the Gleghorne brothers will be facing each other yet again, it all adds up to an intriguing bronze play-off.

The Gleghornes have certainly impressed at the Europeans.

Striker Mark has been on the scoresheet several times as well as assists for England, while defender Paul has been outstanding at the heart of an Irish defence which has conceded just three goals in total against the World No. 2, 3 and 4 teams (Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium).

Irish coach Fulton was disappointed at not reaching the Euro final but thought his players gave everything against the Dutch.

"We tried really hard to make the final but it wasn't to be," he said. "But we are strong mentally and will bounce back. We will take the lessons and get ready to go again."

The only Ulsterman to have a European bronze from the past is Iain Lewers, but that number is certain to rise today.

Belfast Telegraph


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