THREE Rock Rovers gave Rot-Weiss Koln a huge fright in the Euro Hockey League but ultimately bowed out of the elite competition at the KO8 stage 4-2 to the German giants.
Rovers had made a piece of history on Saturday morning with a 5-0 thumping of Scotland’s Grange, becoming the first Irish club to win a knock-out game in the reformatted competition.
On Sunday, however, they were expected to be on the receiving end of a similar scoreline against a side featuring seven current German internationals and had reached the EHL final twice in the last three seasons.
And it looked to be going that way at half-time when Mats Grambusch brilliantly reacted to rebound his own shot past Shane O’Brien.
The goalkeeper was then wrong-footed by a shanked Jan Fleckhaus shot that fortuitously bounced down and then reared up and over his sprawling efforts.
The Dubliners, though, got inside the Rot Weiss heads in the second half, losing their cool and their structure in dramatic fashion.
Ben Walker got Rovers on the board from a smart penalty corner move. Tom Grambusch’s heavily deflected drag-flick did give the German side a 3-1 lead but Ross Canning got another back with 21 minutes to go.
It came from the penalty spot after the midfielder was flattened by Sven Alex to earn the stroke.
Rot-Weiss keeper Victor Aly had already picked out a remarkable save to deny Jody Hosking and he had to do likewise to block Mark English an equaliser.
A penalty corner chance also squirmed across the face of goal as Rot-Weiss rode their luck before clinching the win with 70 seconds to go, earning a stroke when Rovers opted to swap out their goalkeeper in favour of an extra outfielder.
Christopher Ruhr scored it for 4-2, breathing out a huge sigh of relief.
“Really, really proud of the way the boys played,” he said afterwards as his new look team, featuring nine changes from last term.
“There was a lot of doubt and scepticism about the season, but lads are now buzzing, and means that we can keep competing!
“A lot of people have written us off as serious contenders this season due to the transition.
“So this weekend, more for our own confidence, set the record straight, that we are ready to compete with our young side, and that with hard work and commitment to the team goal, we can still get results!”