O'Donoghue hits his 100th goal as Irish make semis
Ireland 11 Singapore 0
Shane O'Donoghue became the first Irish player to break the 100 goals barrier when he scored a hat-trick as the Green Machine's 11-0 mauling of Singapore in France yesterday afternoon sealed their place in the FIH Series semi-finals.
It seemed Alexander Cox's lads would have to go into tomorrow's crossover quarter-finals after they lost 2-1 to Egypt on Sunday, but Scotland scored a last-minute winner to beat the Africans 3-2 yesterday and so all three teams finished on six points, with the Irish having a vastly superior goal difference.
It means they will get an extra day's rest by going straight through to Saturday's semi-finals, and they'll now play the winners of tomorrow's quarter-final between Korea and Egypt.
With the Scots doing them a welcome favour, thanks to Kenny Bain's last-gasp penalty corner conversion, the Irish knew that they needed to beat Singapore by at least four goals to leapfrog to the top of Pool A.
And a three-goal blast in the opening seven minutes paved the way for that success, with another two before the half-time break and a further six in the second half in a one-sided affair.
Many of the Irish goals came from penalty corners, led by O'Donoghue's treble, but Conor Harte also put away two set-pieces with Stephen Cole also converting one.
O'Donoghue's first came after just 50 seconds and Harte's first after four minutes, with Lisnagarvey's Matthew Nelson making it three when he flicked home three minutes later.
Stephen Cole made it four after unselfish work from Eugene Magee and Ben Walker inside the circle, and Walker tapped in O'Donoghue's cross to make it five.
O'Donoghue converted his second penalty corner two minutes into the third quarter and Stephen Cole, Luke Madeley, O'Donoghue again and Harte again all put away further set-pieces to bring up double figures.
There was still no let-up, and Singapore barely had three circle entries throughout the 70 minutes as the Irish pressed and stretched them at every opportunity.
It was no surprise then that they conceded their 11th goal right on the final hooter when Lee Cole whipped the ball high into the net after two efforts had been well saved by the busy Singapore keeper.
Not only was it a memorable day for the Irish and O'Donoghue in particular, it was also a landmark day for Ulsterman Matthew Bell, who won his 100th international cap just six years after gaining his first.
Irish coach Cox will spend the next two days working out tactics for Saturday's semi-final.
The likelihood is that it will be in-form Korea, the Pool B runners-up, that they meet for a place in Sunday's decider which will guarantee a place in the final Olympic eliminator in the autumn.
The Irish, though, wouldn't mind another crack at Egypt as they want to turn last Sunday's result around.
"We knew we needed to score at least four goals to top the table but we scored 11, which is a good result," said Cox.
"After the big disappointment of losing to Egypt we needed to show ourselves that we are capable of reaching the qualifier play-offs for Tokyo.
"We did just that and we did so because we were focused from the start and stayed focused until the end.
"Now we need to prepare ourselves for a big semi-final coming up."
Pool A: Scotland 3 (C Golden, D Riddell, K Bain) Egypt 2 (A Ibrahim 2); Ireland 11 (S O'Donoghue 3, C Harte 2, S Cole 2, M Nelson, B Walker, L Madeley, L Cole) Singapore 0
Pool B: Ukraine 2 (V Shevchuk, A Koshelenko) Korea 8 (J Jang 2, B Jeon 2, J Yang, E Hong, J Kim, J Lee); France 3 (V Charlet, E Tynevez, P van Straaten) Chile 0
Quarter-finals: Scotland v Chile (2.30pm); Korea v Egypt (5pm)