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8 February 2013

Euro Qualifier Recap - Day 1 & 2

Following a superb opening ceremony where all the teams and officials were introduced, and in front of a crowd of four hundred people, the first game took place with Ireland facing the Czech Republic. This was always going to be a lot closer than the world ranking seedings suggested, and so it proved with every ball fought for right until the very final second. 


Ireland started the match brightly with the opening goal from Garret Culliton but the Czechs responded immediately and scored on the double to go in front. During the opening two quarters the lead changed hands on a few occasions, but with strong performances from 2.5's Lubos Kondela and Ales Kisy, the Czechs went into the half time break in front, 20-18. Ireland went on to win the third quarter, however the Czechs finished strong and in a pulsating final two minutes Kondela managed to score two goals to take the win and cause a big upset for the hosting Irish in the opening match.


Holland vs. Italy

In the following match rank outsiders Italy faced qualification hopefuls Holland. This was Italy’s first competitive game at this level and full credit must be given for their effort throughout. Nevertheless, Holland were relentless in their pursuit of glory and won each quarter comfortably, ultimately finishing 71-23. Italy had impressive performances from 3.5 pointer Ahmed Raourahi whilst Stefan Lovers (3.5r) had an excellent game for Holland. This meant going into day two, Holland and the Czech Republic each had one win and topped the table.


Day two - Ireland vs. Italy

Ireland had a very straightforward target on day two to gain one of the qualification slots; win both of their matches. They achieved the first part of this target with little difficulty in the morning game with noteable performances from Garret Culliton, John McCarthy and Stephen Aylmer. Italy once again never gave up and scored twenty eight goals, a small increase in their scoring from the previous night. Ireland scored a healthy sixty one goals.


Holland V Czech Republic

Game two was another cracker between Holland and the Czech Republic. There was also a new twist to consider as the Dutch player Stefan Lovers, who had featured prominently versus Italy was classified out of the tournament following review. Once again there was little between the teams but with strong performances from 3.0 pointer Thomas Pool and 2.0 pointer Wouter Pieters, Holland eventually won out 46-42. 


This set up a mouth watering evening match between Holland and Ireland. In a nutshell if Ireland won they qualified, if they lost they were out. At this stage it was clear that there was nothing between the top three teams and so it also proved in this game.


Ireland impressed in the first three quarters with Alan Dineen, Alan Lynch and Stephen Aylmer to the fore. For Holland, once again, Pool dominated the scoring but he was ably assisted by Andre Aantjes. Despite Ireland dominating much of the game Holland had levelled going into the final quarter which set the stage for a dramatic final quarter.


A tiring Ireland team could only look on as Holland finished strongly winning quarter four by scoring ten goals to the irishs six, with 2.5 pointer Aantes scoring the final 3 goals of the match. This left the final score line Holland 48 points, Ireland 44, and meant qualification for Holland to next August’s European Championships.


Czech Republic vs. Italy

The final match of day two was a much closer affair than ever anticipated. Italy determined to depart with their heads held high battled throughout the match and with one minute remaining were only three goals behind on a scoreline of forty five goals to forty two. Huge credit must go to Italy for such a step up. However, ultimately the Czech Republic completed their objective of securing the second qualification slot for the European Championships.  This set up a Holland versus Czech Republic final.