Three Rock into last-16 in Europe

by Stephen Findlater
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With nerves frayed to their ends, Three Rock Rovers defied the rankings to top their Euro Hockey League group in Barcelona and advance to the KO16 of the competition, billed as the Champions League of hockey.

Four late goals in a 6-0 win over Racing Club de France ultimately proved hugely important as they went through on goal difference ahead of home side Junior FC.

Three Rock dug out a 1-1 draw with the Catalan side on Saturday afternoon right at the death when Luke Madeley scored the equaliser with 61 seconds to go.

Their second game in the 25 degree heat, it was a remarkable moment for Madeley who had been trying to sub himself off due to exhaustion before the last chance presented itself.

He was a star turn throughout in front of Jamie Carr while midfielder Daragh Walsh was in golden form as conductor of the forwards.

This left Three Rock with seven points from two games in the three team group. It meant they had to play the waiting game to see whether Junior could outdo their scoring tally against the French.

Indeed, there was an outside possibility of a shoot-out which meant six Three Rock players skipped their flight home for that eventuality and it looked a possibility as Junior went goal crazy early on in their Sunday tie.

Three goals in the first 22 minutes had the Rathfarnham club’s nerves in ribbons but Racing belatedly started making wonder saves.

At the base of their defence was Ali Haughton, a former Rover who is likely to rejoin the club in the new year after three years in Paris. He played a guiding hand which will earn him the odd pint on his return.

When Amaury Bellenger netted for Racing with eight minutes to go, it put the result out of reach of Junior who scrambled a 5-1 win, two goals shy of the target.

The outcome puts Three Rock through to the last 16 of the EHL which will take place next Easter in Eindhoven.

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