Watch: Controversy in Canada as Ireland's Olympic dream ended in contentious finish to hockey qualifier
Ireland men's hockey team's Olympic dream has been ended after a hugely contentious finish to their two-legged qualifier in Canada.
The Irish had been celebrating at what they thought was full-time in the second game in Vancouver as the ball went dead.
However, the umpire soon halted the beginning festivities to consult his video official Diego Barbas for a potential trip in the circle. Canada had broken into the left side as the clock ticked down only for Lee Cole's stick to catch the Canadian player's foot.
The decision on the field was no infringement but the video official not only overturned the call but awarded a penalty stroke rather than a penalty corner for what he deemed a deliberate foul, handing the hosts a gilt-edged chance to level the scores at 6-6 on aggregate and send the game to a shoot-out.
Canada's Scott Tupper tucked the penalty into the bottom corner, below the dive of David Fitzgerald, and Ireland had to attempt to regroup.
It was on to penalty shuffles, in which the players have eight seconds to dribble towards goal and convert.
Eugene Magee, Johnny McKee and Peter Caruth all converted to give Ireland a 3-1 lead on penalties but two misses followed, allowing Canada back in and, although Magee netted again in sudden death, the hosts went on to secure the victory.
Sport can be so cruel.— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) October 27, 2019
A controversial call earned Canada a penalty stroke with 1 second left in 4th quarter of the FIH Men's Olympic Qualifier.
They scored to level the tie on aggregate - before Ireland lost out on penalties.https://t.co/UoiD83OKTh#hockey #Ireland #Canada pic.twitter.com/SMaj9X23vo
Ireland had taken a commanding 5-3 lead in Saturday's first leg thanks to two goals each from Shane O'Donoghue and former Wallace schoolboy Sean Murray, with Chris Cargo also on target.
Sunday's second leg got off the perfect start, with Banbridge man Johnny McKee putting Ireland three goals ahead on aggregate but, as Canada dominated possession and territory, got their rewards with goals either side of half-time to take a 2-1 lead on the night and set up the scarcely believable conclusion.
"It's been two games where the video referrals have been very important for us," said the Canada manager. "I don't think we got one wrong."
Canvassed a few different Whatsapp groups with people from around the hockey world - not a single one yet to make a case for a stroke. Just heartbreaking and inexplicable...— The Hook (@hookhockey) October 27, 2019
Next weekend, Ireland women play in their own Olympic qualifying double-header against (guess who?) Canada. The matches will be played at Energia Park, Donnybrook, on Saturday and Sunday.
Belfast Telegraph Digital