Peter Caruth grabbed a dramatic golden goal in extra time to hand Andrew Meredith’s Green Machine a deserved Bronze Medal following a determined and battling performance at Champions Challenge 1 in Argentina.
Ireland, not for the first time during this tournament were involved in yet another thrilling match as they squared off against Malaysia & former Coach Paul Revington for Bronze. The Green Machine started quickest out of the blocks on another warm evening in Quilmes and took the lead as early as the 3rd minute when the influential Michael Watt found Geoff McCabe on the edge of the circle to thunder a shot past the Malaysian Keeper. Ireland continued to look bright in the early exchanges but Malaysia pulled themselves level in the 18th minute when they converted following their first real clear cut opportunity.
Ireland undeterred by conceding the equaliser regained the lead again in the 27th minute when Conor Harte, on the occasion of his 100th Cap, fired high into the goal following a penalty corner variation and the sides went in at the half with the score-line at 2-1 but both teams down to 10 men.
The second half begun in a similar frantic vein to the first with Ireland having the better of the play and creating good opportunities to score via the ever threatening Peter Caruth, Michael Watt & John Jackson. Agonisingly, Malaysia somehow managed to pull themselves level to 2-2 completely against the run of play and set up an amazing finish to the game where both teams were reduced in numbers at differing times. Malaysia looked to have stolen the Bronze from Ireland’s grasp when with only 8 minutes remaining, Ireland were reduced again to 10 men and within minutes Malaysia slotted home to take a 3-2 lead following a good save from David Harte in the Irish goal.
The Green Machine are not a side to give up easily though and with 3 minutes remaining Conor Harte pounced once again to breathe life into Ireland’s quest for Bronze. Before the end, there was still time for Ireland to be reduced further to 9 men when Eugene Magee got his marching orders and the Green Machine had to hold on to force extra time.
Ireland started the extra time period in the hot conditions down to 9 men and knowing that it would take a titanic effort to keep up the level of performance of the previous 70 minutes. David Harte was proving to be a huge influence on the game as the Irish Stopper put in yet another commanding display of goalkeeping to keep Ireland in the game with reduced numbers. Ireland held out till half time but amazingly still had to begin the 2nd half of extra time down to 10 men and faced a big challenge to stay in the game.
This Ireland team however have made a habit of amazing people the world over in recent years and the never say die spirit of the squad meant Ireland were always going to have a chance to succeed in this game. On return to full strength in numbers, Ireland stepped up their game and the scene was set for one of the Green Machine to become a Hero. With time seemingly running out and the game destined for dreaded penalty strokes to decide, Ireland’s Peter Caruth was the hero the Green Machine called upon as he fired home the game winning golden goal and wheeled away to celebrate to the delight of Ireland coach Andrew Meredith.
It was an amazing end to an amazing journey for this wonderful group of Irish men. The Green Machine secured the bronze medal at Champions Challenge 1 and with it heralded the increasingly bright future for Men’s Hockey in Ireland.
Speaking after the game, an extremely proud Ireland Coach, Andrew Meredith told us “It’s a really pleasing end to a positive 10 days. Despite all the obstacles placed in front of the playing group during the game, we were able to finish with our best performance of the tournament. A massive thank you must go to the entire hockey community for getting behind their national hockey team, and making this possible.”
Ireland Starting XI – D Harte, C Harte, Jackson, Gormley(c), Loughrey, McCabe, McConnell, Jermyn, O’Donoghue, Caruth, Watt
FIH Official Match Card – click here