How often to we get to support an Irish team in the latter stages of a World Cup? It’s only happened twice in the last three decades for the Senior Irish team, but Sean Kavanagh’s Irish Team made it to the Second Round of the Homeless World Cup on Tuesday.
October 21st was a tense time for all those involved in the Irish Camp. Monday had seen the Irish beaten 7-2 by the Mexicans and Ireland knew that if she had any chance of progressing through to the next round, she needed four points from her remaining two games against fellow Europeans, Wales and Sweden.
1st match Ireland 6 Wales 2
Ireland lined out against the Welsh knowing defeat would spell the end of her World Cup ambitions. Both teams began by match shakily but it was the Irish who eventually drew first blood through the prolific Thomas McDonagh. Buoyed by their goal, Ireland quickly raced into a 3-0 lead but it was not plain sailing. The Welsh were resolute in defence and soon pegged it back to 3-1. Once Ireland got their fourth however it was game over. Coach Mick Pender used the final few minutes to utilize his entire squad with an eye to Ireland’s second game of the day.
2nd match Ireland 11 Sweden 3
All that remained between Ireland and progression through to the next round was a sturdy Swedish side. By this time confidence in the Irish camp was high and Pender’s team completely dominated from start to finish. Despite the face that temperatures reached 35 degrees, the Irish ran themselves into the ground for the duration of the match. 11-3 was a fair reflection of the Irish efforts.
Ireland have now progressed to the second group stage were they will face the likes of Holland, Romania, Ghana and Costa Rica amongst others. So far the Irish had proven themselves more than capable of putting European teams to the sword although question marks remain over how the Irish will cope against teams more accustomed to the intense Chilean heat.
Ireland’s first group stage match kicks off at 3.20pm Irish time against Romania. The Boys in Green have impressed so far and long may it continue.
The games can be watched directly from the Irish Street Leagues Website.
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena