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McKee is at the double as Irish sail into World semis

Ireland 5 Poland 1

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland are through to tomorrow's World League 2 semi-final after Johnny McKee's double strike helped them to a 5-1 win over Poland at Stormont yesterday.

McKee, enjoying his first world ranking event, struck once in each half, and a brace of penalty corner goals from Shane O'Donoghue and one from Eugene Magee wrapped up a comfortable success.

Craig Fulton's lads now take on Wales tomorrow afternoon (2.30pm) and a win would put them through to Sunday's gold medal play-off and guarantee them a place in the World League 3 series from which they can qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Tokyo.

If they lose, they go into the bronze play-off and a win would still earn them their ticket to World League 3 as the highest ranked third-place finisher from the three tournaments.

So there's clearly a lot to play for tomorrow but Fulton is content that his new-look squad are making continual progress as the competition moves on and that there is still more in the locker for the crucial run-in.

"Quarter-finals are never easy, but we settled down well after the first two goals," said Irish coach Fulton.

"We lost it a bit in the final quarter, but when you are four goals up, perhaps the most important thing is not to get injured.

"They didn't really have many chances whereas we created more.

"We're in a good position and getting stronger each game, but Wales in the semi-final won't be easy."

It was McKee who gave the Green Machine the lead they craved when he deflected in a cross from Banbridge team-mate Matthew Bell after 19 minutes and barely 90 seconds later another Bann player, Magee, made it 2-0.

And Fulton's lads went into the break three goals to the good when O'Donoghue roofed a drag flick penalty corner.

Poland stepped up a gear in the second half but another trademark O'Donoghue penalty corner extended the Irish lead before Patryk Bulka pulled one back.

Two minutes from time, the Irish broke clear and McKee got the final touch to a lovely move which saw Sean Murray lob the advancing keeper.

The second semi-final will see France and Scotland square up.

France crushed Ukraine 11-2 while the Scots kept their hopes alive by winning the shoot-out against Austria after a remarkable 5-5 draw.

The fifth-eighth place play-offs will involve Austria and Ukraine and Poland and Italy.

Ireland: D Harte, J Bell, R Gormley, C Harte, P Gleghorne, M Bell, S O'Donoghue, N Glassey, J McKee, M Nelson, E Magee. Subs: S Murray, J Wright, L Cole, J Duncan, B Walker, J Carr

World League 2 quarter-finals (Stormont Playball): France 11 Ukraine 2; Wales 3 Italy 0; Austria 5 Scotland 5 (Scotland win 4-2 in shoot-out); Ireland 5 (J McKee 2, S O'Donoghue 2, E Magee) Poland 1

Tomorrow: fifth-eighth play-offs: Austria v Ukraine (10am); Poland v Italy (12.15pm). Semi-finals: Ireland v Wales (2.30pm); France v Scotland (4.45pm)

Belfast Telegraph

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