Ireland 2 (Sothern, O’Donoghue)
Austria 2 (Korper x2)
The Irish men's hockey team retained their European A division status after a 2-2 draw with Austria was enough to claim sixth place at the Eurohockey championship in Amsterdam.
A third place finish in Pool B meant Ireland missed out on the semi-finals and were condemned to a 5th-8th place playoff group with the other three sides that failed to reach the semi-finals. The bottom two sides here were to be relegated to the Euro Hockey Nations challenge.
Ireland's 7-1 victory over Poland in the initial pool phase was carried into the 5th-8th place playoff as the Poles were also grouped among the quartet. However, a 1-0 loss to Spain on Friday left Ireland needing a result against Austria to avoid relegation.
Goals from Alan Sothern and Shane O'Donoghue were enough to secure a 2-2 draw and keep Ireland among the elite European nations, with Austria and Poland being demoted.
Things looked grim for Ireland early on as Austria made the brighter start this morning and hit the front on five minutes.
Dominic Uher strode down the right and into the circle, sending the ball towards the back post where Michael Korper was waiting for the sweep in from close range.
Conor Harte and Matthew Bell pulled the strings from deep and their vision enabled them Ireland to break down the Austrian defence before half-time.
The equaliser came courtesy of the two aforementioned as Harte found Bell in the corner who showed great skill along the baseline before pulling the ball back to Alan Sothern who slammed the ball home.
Austria had the only penalty corner of the half but the mistrapped attempt didn’t trouble the Irish.
The Green Machine started the second half well and controlled the game for large periods. Shane O’Donoghue gave Ireland the lead with an unstoppable drag flick high into the corner of Szymczyk’s goal.
O’Donoghue had another penalty corner chance minutes later but his effort was saved. Ireland had more opportunities to put the game to bed as both Matthew Nelson and Lee Cole sent their shots over the bar.
Austria, needing a win to avoid relegation, elected for a kicking back and the tactic appeared to pay off as Korper somehow slipped the ball into the goal from a tight angle on the baseline.
But it was too little too late for Austria and despite a last-minute flurry in front of goal Ireland survived, retaining their place in European A Division.
Commenting after the match, coach Craig Fulton said "I thought overall on the day we were the better team. We were comfortable in the second half, I thought we could have scored one or two more but it was always close.
"Overall, we have huge strength in depth in our squad and with a year to go till the World Cup it’s the perfect place to be".
Ireland: D Harte (Captain), M Bell, M Nelson, A Sothern, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, M Robson, P Gleghorne, C Harte, S Loughrey
Subs: J Bell, J Jackson, N Glassey, B Walker, D Walsh, L Cole, M Ingram
Austria: D Uher, A Bele, B Schmidt, M Korper, D Frohlich, B Stanzl, F Steyrer, M Minar, L Thornblom, X Hasun (Captain), M Szymczyk
Subs: F Zeidler, S Eitenberger, P Schmidt, O Binder, F Unterkircher, P Stanzl, M Mantler