Belfast Telegraph

Irish put their minds on job

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland psychologist Phil Moore has really had his work cut over the last 24 hours as he tries to convince his team that they can still achieve a top-six finish at the Eurohockey Nations Cup in Manchester.

Dave Passmore's team take on old rivals England tomorrow in a High Noon showdown which will decide whether Ireland slip back down into Division B for the next series in two years time.

The players were understandably gutted that their poorest performance of the tournament so far was against France on Wednesday in a game they badly needed to win, and that the semi-finals will now see Holland take on Belgium and Germany take on Spain.

Passmore's lads did enough which in normal circumstances would have won the game, but don't mention the luck of the Irish as things went horribly wrong.

They went a goal down and despite all the pressure couldn't make the breakthrough. They won sufficient penalty corners to warrant a win, but at the end it was the same old story which has haunted previous Irish teams - they put up good shows against the top teams and then can't deliver in the one pool that is so crucial.

And that's where the psychologist comes in. The players were needing a big lift and Phil has been reminding them, among other things, how they raised their game against Pakistan in the World Cup Qualifier in China and came away with a remarkable 2-2 draw.

Already some of the players are believing that all is not lost. They know the odds are stacked against them but, on paper, it's the strongest and fittest Irish team to have taken part in a major tournament since the late Eighties, and they might just spring another surprise.

Passmore said: "The team spirit remains high despite the French setback. There's a unity and bonding within the squad."

The Irish have only had 12 wins in 95 games against the old enemy. Can they make it lucky 13 and keep their tournament alive?

Eurohockey Nations Cup

Classification games (Friday): Ireland v England (noon); France v Czech Republic (2pm). Semi-finals: Holland v Belgium (4pm); Germany v Spain (6.30pm).


From Belfast Telegraph