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'Video umpire should hang his head in shame': Ireland captain Jonathan Bell reacts to Olympic qualifying controversy in defeat to Canada

Ireland captain Jonny Bell was understandably a frustrated figure after the heartbreaking end to his side's Olympic bid.
Ireland captain Jonny Bell was understandably a frustrated figure after the heartbreaking end to his side's Olympic bid.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Ireland captain Jonathan Bell says the video official involved in his side's Olympic heartache should 'hang his head in shame'.

Bell and his team-mates were celebrating qualification for Tokyo 2020 when the second leg of their qualifying double-header against Canada reached full-time.

However, the jubilation was cut short when the umpire confirmed he was seeking video assistance from Diego Barbas.

As the clock ticked down, with the aggregate score at 6-5 to the Irish, Canada burst into the left side of the circle. Lee Cole's stick made what seemed minimal contact with the Canadian player's foot but Barbas seemed to have deemed it not only a foul but an intentional infringement, resulting in a penalty stroke rather than a penalty corner.

Scott Tupper converted to send to the game to a penalty shoot-out, in which the hosts came back from 3-1 down to win on sudden death.

Ultimately, the contentious call will long be remembered and felt by Irish Hockey.

"The video umpire should hang his head in shame. It was a terrible, terrible decision in the last moments of the game," said an understandably frustrated Ireland captain Bell.

"Fair play to Canada, they came out strong at us. They had chances, we had chances, but as I say a decision like that at this level is just not acceptable."

The Irish squad was led by former Banbridge and Lisnagarvey head coach Mark Tumilty, who was handed the reins only six week ago after Alexander Cox resigned.

After the game, Tumilty admitted they all believed the spot at Tokyo had been secured.

“We celebrated as if we’d won it," he said. "It’s a very tough call. I wouldn’t see too many of those in any level of hockey, to be honest with you - for that to be given. But we had our chances in the shootout as well. Fitzy (David Fitzergald) did very well in goals. That’s the way shootouts go. Listen, they’re potluck.

“That’s the way it goes. It’s not an easy one to take. It’s probably a real low one. Not easy.”

Ireland had carried over a 5-3 advantage from Saturday's first leg but were dominated on Sunday, losing the game 3-1.

“We probably didn’t play as well as we did yesterday," reflected Tumilty. "Canada reacted well to our performance yesterday, however I thought we still created enough chances. The guys dug in very deep there right until the last seconds of the game.

“I’m so very proud of what the guys have delivered over this last six weeks. It was a difficult period for them. There were a lot of unknown in relation to the coaching setup and that. But they’ve been a fantastic group of players to deal with.

“For some lads that’s their last international game. What a way to go out of international hockey. But they’ve been excellent servants to Irish hockey. They’ve had a lot of highs. This would be one of the major lows. It’s never a nice way to go out of your international career. But they’re a strong group of lads and there’s a lot of talent still in the group. I’m convinced that this group can bounce back."

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