Ireland are off to a flying start in their bid for glory at the 2014 World Lacrosse Championships in Denver, Colorado. 3 wins from their first 3 games have set them up for a meeting with the winners of the Plum division, Israel to see who progresses to the Quarter finals and a meeting against one of the top ranked teams.
On Friday last, Ireland ran out 17-1 winners in a rain interrupted opener against Uganda. The Ugandans were lining out for their debut appearance in a World Cup and their lack of experience showed against a ruthless Ireland team who started quickly and never let up. Tom Riley was the star performer with 4 goals and 1 assist. Michael Shea also caught the eye with 3 goals and 1 assist. For Uganda, it was a case of damage limitation from the start and their goalkeeper Allan Amone, made a string of saves, much to the delight of the Denver crowd.
With 13 minutes remaining, a heavy storm broke over the tournament venue. Play was halted temporarily but when a tornado warning was issued, the decision was taken to abandon the remainder of the game with Ireland deemed the winners on a convincing scoreline.
Next up, on Saturday afternoon were old rivals, France in a game which at the beginning of the tournament, many felt would determine the group winners. The game was televised on ESPN 3 and the audience saw France fly out of the traps with a goal within the first minute. Ireland kept their composure however and traded goals with the French until their greater threat in front of goal saw them head to the end of the 1st quarter on the right side of a 8-2 scoreline.
Things got even better for Ireland in the 2nd quarter as they shut out the French completely, scoring 7 unanswered goals. Tom Riley finished the match with 5 goals, Mike Shea had 4 goals and 2 assists, Brian Gillis had 2 goals and 4 assists, while Kris Prior and Aaron Cahill had 3 goals and 1 assist each in what was a ruthless display of scoring. Ireland captain Ryan Licht was excellent at close defense however, earning him ‘The Physio Company Game MVP’ as Ireland ran out winners on a scoreline of 22-5.
On Sunday, Ireland next took to the field to Face Bermuda who came into this game on the back of 2 wins in a winner takes all tie to determine the group winners. This was a much more physical affair than the previous group encounters and the match officials penalised both teams for every infringement. A total of 23 minutes were lost to penalty minutes with players from both sides consigned to the touchlines throughout.
Bermuda’s Drew Jenkins caught the eye with a dominant performance at the face-off and secured crucial possession for Bermuda throughout as well as scoring twice. Ireland were equal to the task however and both Irish goalkeepers, Quinn and Sweeney made crucial saves at pivotal points in the game. Sean Gibson shut down Jenkins at every opportunity but it was Brian Gillis who won the plaudits and The Physio Company’s MVP award for what was a breakout performance, scoring 6 goals and creating 1 assist.
By the end, Ireland had pulled away to secure a comfortable win on a scoreline of 14-5.
Irelands reward for winning the group stage on an aggregate score of 53-11, is a knockout round meeting with Israel, winners of the Plum division. Israel will represent a step up in quality and this should be a real test of Ireland’s credentials. With both offense and defence motoring however, they will be extremely confident of getting through to a meeting with one of the top ranked teams in the quarter finals to be held next Wednesday.