Ireland on knees as dream is crushed
Last-gasp Korea winner destroys London 2012 ambition despite brave bid at Belfield
IRELAND men’s hopes of a place at this summer’s London Olympics were dashed by South Korea when they won the final of the qualifying tournament in Dublin 3-2.
Nam Yong Lee scored the goal which broke the hosts’ hearts just two seconds from the end of the game.
The match appeared destined for extra-time until Lee snatched a last-gasp winner, which was eventually confirmed by the video umpire, to clinch the one place available for the tournament winners at this summer’s Games.
Australian umpire Murray Grime missed the vital touch and signalled a long corner but the television match official (TMO) had no hesitation in awarding Lee the priceless late goal.
Such technology was not available to the umpires early in the tournament but, with RTE rolling up to the UCD campus with their outside broadcast technology for the big game, the final had the benefit of the decisive services of the TMO.
President Michael D Higgins and the rest of the sell-out crowd were only 12 minutes in their seats before Peter Caruth put Ireland ahead.
The Annadale striker responded sharply to a rebound from the pads of Myung Ho Lee after John Jermyn’s shot and sent the ball smartly back past the ’keeper.
The Koreans responded to the setback with their best spell of the match, as chances fell to a succession of forwards who failed to take advantage of a back-pedalling defence.
It appeared that the worst of the storm had been weathered when on 29 minutes, they finally hauled themselves level while Irish captain and centre-half Ronan Gormley sat in the sin-bin.
Player of the tournament Hyo Sik You sowed the panic that allowed Nam Yong Lee an opening too good to refuse.
The spirited Irish, showing no obvious ill-effects from their efforts against Malaysia in Saturday’s 1-1 draw, again went ahead seven minutes after the break.
Chris Cargo earned a penalty corner and a well-rehearsed set-piece produced the goal – with Jermyn’s delivery deflected on target by Timmy Cockram.
The score earned the Lisnagarvey man the award for the tournament’s leading striker and for two heady minutes it looked as though it would also be enough to send Ireland to London.
But Nam Yong Lee was again involved in the second equaliser, drawing the fouls that prompted umpire Grime to point to the penalty spot, from which Hyun Woo Nam duly sent Davy Harte the wrong way.
A combination of Harte and Ronan Gormley kept the contest level as You’s shot was scrambled in desperation around a post and the game appeared set for extra-time.
Then David Ames conceded a free 22 metres out with those nine seconds showing on the match clock.
Jong Hyun Jang crashed the ball into the danger area. It touched Lee’s stick – and probably John Jackson’s too – on its way to leaving Harte helpless, as the replays confirmed to the satisfaction of the third official.
The Koreans – beaten Olympic finalists in 2000 – were already celebrating before the hooter as Ireland could not score in the remaining seconds.
As his men wept openly around him, coach Paul Revington attempted to put some order on the anguish of Ireland just falling short in their dream of playing Olympic hockey for the first time.
“It’s hard to take. To have it taken away at the end like that is a bitter and tough call,” said Revington.
“It was a tight game. Korea always looked dangerous. Their speed and running is a tough thing to control and towards the end I don’t think we controlled it.”