Personal Sporting

Sudden Death On A Far Away Field

The Ireland men's hockey team miss out out on Olympic qualification — in the final seconds

I’ve seen a few things in my time, but nothing as dramatic as this.

The following is not based on a true story: it is a true story …

It’s late on Sunday evening. I’m in the newspaper sports desk office, finished work, but watching on television.

Eyes glued to this.

The clock is winding down, and we are literally in the last seconds of the game.

A few more ticks of the game clock and it’s all over. The Ireland men’s hockey team will qualify for the Olympic games.

They are playing Canada, in Vancouver. 

I know nothing about men’s hockey, couldn’t name one of the Ireland team,  but win this game and they will be playing Tokyo 2020. 

It’s the second of the two games between the two, and Ireland are up 6-5 on aggregate.

Ireland in green shirts, Canada in red.

Oh, oh … Canada are on the attack, everything riding on this laster-than-last-ditch effort …

The player in red — for danger — flicks and feints his way at breakneck speed, the deadly puck in front of him, into the Ireland penalty area … evades a number of tired, tired Irish tackles …

The clock is about to hit zero: time up …

He veers left of goal, he’s heading for the end line as one of the Irish defenders left in his wake stretches his desperate hockey stick out in the player’s direction… you would hardly even call it a tackle, his stick is just there, limp on the floor 

The Canadian guy stumbles and actually falls over as he tries to whip the puck across the goal.

Too late, the puck rolls harmlessly over the end line.

The referee blows his whistle.

It’s all over!

I’m emotionally shot just looking on, thrilled …

The spent and overwrought Ireland team and their coaching entourage, however, have gone bananas … jigging, kissing, hugging and roaring.

Sweaty tears of relief and joy unbound.

Years of striving, training camps, countless sacrifices forgotten …   all worth it for this …

They have done it!!!

HOLD ON… the referee is arguing with one of the Ireland players  … what’s going on here, why is the player in green so angry, and the referee telling him to go away?

The TV commentators are unsure, we’re unsure, but this is not over yet …

There is going to be a video review of that final play!

They’re going upstairs, as has become such a feature of so many top-level sporting contests.

Up to a little room where the designated official studies photographs and video footage of any controversial incident.

We watch our own television replays as we wait for the decision from the inscrutable video official.

The referee is by now being harassed and pursued by irate Irish players with heavy wooden sticks in their hands, and trying to assert his authority, and control his own emotions.

He is waving them away, but they keep coming.

The Canadian group are watching and hoping too …

Over and again we watch on TV as the Irish defender drops that tired stick onto the floor, and it points towards attacker and puck …  it doesn’t look good: that’s why the forward fell, he has stumbled over the Irish stick and it has unbalanced him. And that is why he has tumbled to the ground.

There is another question: did the puck go out of play before or after the referee blew the final whistle.

The incident doesn’t look great … of course the Irish commentary pair think it doesn’t look that bad … a penalty corner to Canada at worst.

They would, wouldn’t they?

But I’m worried.

Now normally I could care less about the fortunes of a hockey team … but this is Ireland, and this is the Olympic games we are talking about.

The last second!!!

If Canada get a penalty stroke, and score it, the teams will finish 6-6 on aggregate and there will be a penalty shoot-out,

Nominated players have to take the puck on the half-way line, run with it towards the goal and the goalkeeper, and they have five seconds to score a goal.

The man in spectacles upstairs is still looking at the footage.

Amazing what I attribute to this man I know nothing about, not even his name or where he comes from.

The commentators give me the information, but I don’t take it in …

He’s just this guy, this official … he’s all officials … and he now has this incredible power … the power to send Ireland to the Olympic games or back to start yet another long qualifying campaign  … so arrogant,  milking the moment …

Finally his chance to get his own back on these top athletes, representing all those guys who swanned up and down the hockey court of his youth, leaving him, enthusiastic and dedicated, but useless, in their wake … what has he got against Ireland, my Ireland?

How I see him at this moment, anyway …

Come on, man … foul or no foul?

Foul, and it’s a penalty corner — or worse, a penalty stroke — to Canada. No foul and Ireland are through.

As we wait we establish, first of all, that the whistle blew after the puck went out of play.

So that one is ruled out …

Hockey’s answer to Simon Cowell delivers his verdict: it’s a penalty to Canada!!!

The Canadian guy steps up, he shoots … the Ireland keeper,  all mask, lumbering armour and padding, guesses right and moves to his left.

The ball squeezes under his body and into the cage.

Goal!!

6-6

Shoot-out.

An elated Canada versus a dejected, deflated Ireland.

Advantage, guess who?

Ireland must somehow pick themselves up for this all-or-nothing final finale.

The Irish guys start off great and score their first two … Canada miss one, they miss another!

Elation and positivity peep above the parapet again …

Oh no, the next two Irish guys either miss or the Canadian keeper saves.

Now it’s sudden death.

The next Irish guy goes … he advanced on goal, tries to draw the keeper … and fouls the ball with his foot …

The next Canadian sets off:  he scores, they are through, he misses and the dice with death continues.

It’s just him, his whole world now reduced to hockey stick, puck, goalkeeper and goal cage.

I’m on the edge of my office chair, beseeching … but not really believing …

He advances … he feints … he shoots … and he scores!

Canada hockey team (1)
Canada, a qualified success and off to Tokyo 2020

Canada are in the Olympic games

Ireland are out.!!

Ireland lose hockey (1)
It’s all over for Ireland at Rutledge Field in West Vancouver

Fair play to the delirious Canadians.

And to the men in green laid low on another far away field…

Sport, eh?

My Word Of  The Week (#WotW) is Dramatic

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35 comments on “Sudden Death On A Far Away Field

  1. I was there. I was there. Not physically. But you took me there. Ta much 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah the adrenalin of sport, watching or playing! #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sadly, a feeling I know only too well. But that’s what makes sport so addictive, what makes us so willing to turn into masochists and go through that torture time and time again. I commiserate with you and Ireland – I just hope I don’t feel the same after Saturday morning!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really hope you do it tomorrow, not that I am a sudden fan of England, Clive, but I hate the brutish way the South Africans play!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Enda. I’d be supporting anyone other than SA too. Mind you, having seen the way NZ destroyed Wales earlier I’m wondering how we managed to beat them!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, as they say, you hammered the hammer, attacked them where they were strong, and you were brilliant on the day. Simple!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hoping for a repeat performance tomorrow 🤞

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Always a terrible outcome when it’s determined by men with whistles instead of those in the action. As much as you want them to get it right, I sometimes miss the days before replays and challenges. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Those men in the boxes have so much power, but I guess it ends the feeling of ‘being robbed’ which is always a deflating opinion. Your writing made this an exciting read Enda, even though the thought of Hockey makes me cringe when I remember how much i hated it at school. Still, I’m hoping the Rugby Final will have lots of excitement to offer this weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m no fan of hockey either, Anne, but this was Ireland, and it was incredibly dramatic. Poor us though! Good luck in the rugby tomorrow!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I used to play field hockey at school when I was a girl. What a disappointment. Why do we get so wrapped up in our sports teams? Vicarious thrills and a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Great description, Enda!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh wow! How dramatic!
    What a shame for Ireland but congrats to Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh the tension. I can’t imagine how it would feel before video playbacks, if you felt the referee had missed something. Or maybe it was easier, because there was no chance of a change of heart. #wotw

    Like

    • Well there was no change of heart from the video official, Cheryl!! I’m sure if the scenario had been reveresed I’d have been jumping for joy for Ireland!!!

      Like

  9. Ha! I actually thought this was going to be about someone who died on the field…I’m relieved it wasn’t. But what’s wrong with my tought process??? #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I find sport so stressful to watch but don’t participate in real life because I shout too much and I’m rubbish 🙂 Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh what a dramatic way to end the match but such a huge, huge shame to Ireland to lose out on a place in the Olympic games in that way. #WotW

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly was, Louise … and just yesterday, our women’s hockey team beat Canada on sudden death penalties to reach the Olympics at their expense, and while it felt great to qualify, it seemed so harsh on the losers. So my delight was muted!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Such a shame for Ireland to lose out! #twinklytuesday

    Like

  13. OOH sudden death situations in sport are always so stressful whether you care about the sport or not! #DreamTeam

    Like

  14. twicemicrowavedtea

    Argh! I was rooting for Ireland all the way through reading this and now I feel so disappointed. What a shame for them! #kcacols

    Like

  15. Tracey Carr

    Wow I’d say you probably fell off your chair watching that Enda! I would probably have been hiding behind my chair if it were me. I can’t take all that suspense. That’s the sort of stuff you just can’t write! #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A harsh way to lose and great retelling you had me on the edge of my seat! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

    Liked by 1 person

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