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Ireland win thriller to book their place at Paris Games


Ireland 4-3 Korea

Ireland booked their ticket to the Paris Games with a magnificent victory over Korea in their men’s Olympic hockey qualifier third-placed play-off in Valencia on Sunday.

Goals from Matthew Nelson, Ben Johnson, John McKee and Shane O’Donoghue swung it for the Green Machine, but a superb match was on a knife edge right to the very end.

With both teams in the last-chance saloon, it was open and high-tempo fare.

The contest ebbed and flowed from the off, though it took until the final 67 seconds of the first quarter for Ireland to get the breakthrough. After a penalty corner – awarded for an infringement by Manjae Jung – Nelson turned home from close range.

Just over three minutes into quarter two, it got even better. McKee’s initial effort was saved but Johnson buried the rebound high into the net to double Ireland’s advantage.

It was going so smoothly for Mark Tumilty’s team but Korea were never going to go down without a fight. They halved the deficit when a penalty corner caused panic; David Harte initially made a good stop but the ball looped off the post and Kim Junghoo knocked it in.

An onslaught felt inevitable – instead, Ireland went up the other end and restored their two-goal advantage. Sean Murray darted into the circle and slid a composed pass to the middle for McKee to confidently guide home.

Thirty seconds before half-time, there was another twist in a rollercoaster encounter. Korea varied their penalty corner routine and Junwoo Jeong’s low strike squeezed past Harte.

Ireland always looked dangerous, and they made it 4-2 10 minutes into quarter three when O’Donoghue slammed home a penalty corner.

But the goals kept coming. Every time the Irish gave themselves some breathing space, Korea kicked back. Ireland conceded a penalty stroke after an infringement from Harte, Jang Jonghyun converted and with just over two minutes left in the quarter, Ireland got off the hook when a fourth Korea goal was chalked off because it was forced home off Nam Young Lee’s body.

From the subsequent penalty corner, Jonathan Lynch made a brilliant goal line clearance to preserve his country’s lead.

Korea’s Nam Yong Lee was sent to the sin bin for the first ten minutes of the final quarter after an altercation with Peter McKibbin.

The final quarter was absolutely nerve-shredding. Ireland hunted a killer fifth goal as Korea chased a leveller.

In the last few minutes Korea were restored to 11 players and they subbed off their goalkeeper for another outfiedler, laying siege to the Ireland goal. But Tumilty’s charges saw it out, celebrating wildly at the final whistle.




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