U-18 Celtic Cup – Men
Peffermill (SCO) 6 – 8 July 2012
DAY 1: Friday 6th July 2012
Wales went down to a defeat against a well-organised Ireland team on the first day of the Celtic Cup. Wales opened the scoring with a well worked Ben Francis goal in the 9' which was no more than they deserved following a period of pressure where the team created a number of chances and shocked the Irish with the intensity of their play.
However, the lead was short lived and 5' later, the Irish equalised with their first real attack of the game when a melee in the D saw the Irish put the ball past Dewi Roblin in the Welsh goal. Wales continued to press but gradually the Irish began to dominate the game and wrested the initiative away from Wales and it was no real surprise that the boys in green went ahead after 29' with another open play goal that stemmed from a turnover in midfield. Wales continued to attack but the half ended 2-1 to the Irish.
The second half started much as the first with Wales upping the tempo and forcing the Irish onto the back foot. It was a surprise, then, when Ireland scored a third after 40' from another turnover from Wales. From then on, try as Wales might, the Irish looked increasingly assured and comfortable and looked the more likely to score again as Wales’ belief waned and, as a result, their play became more sporadic and disjointed.
This was a game that showed Wales that they were able to compete with a Championship division team for long periods but, equally, showed that they needed to believe in themselves more and trust their game plan. With more composure and belief in their own ability, they could have taken something out of this game but, at the end, Ireland were full value for their victory. Wales now need to focus on beating Switzerland to retain hope of the top two finish the team set itself prior to the tournament starting.
DAY 2: Saturday 7th July 2012
Wales bounced back from an opening day defeat against Ireland in the U18 Celtic Cup with a resounding victory against Switzerland in the torrential rain in Edinburgh.
Wales started brightly and quickly gained their reward when they were awarded a penalty stroke after just 3' which Sammy Kasto converted with aplomb. Wales gained confidence from this early goal and began to dominate possession and Tom McGlynn added a well taken second on 10' from five metres out.
As the half wore on, Wales continued to dominate possession with Switzerland barely able to get into the match. Wales did have a scare on 25' when a quick break from a Wales penalty corner saw the Swiss earn a stroke which Hamish Addey saved expertly to keep the score at 2-0. Wales continued to press but could not convert their numerous chances and the half ended with Wales only leading 2-0.
The second half began in the same vein as the first, with Wales pressing hard to extend their advantage and following some good, patient build up play, Ben Francis volleyed in a rebound to score his second goal of the tournament. Switzerland were rarely able to keep the ball for extended periods which was not helped by their defensive alignment but Wales were guilty of squandering a number of gilt-edged chances as they continued to dominate possession and territory. Ben Francis got his second goal of the game on 53' with another goal from short range to make it four and finally a penalty corner routine on 69' saw Toby Roper score a well-directed deflected goal to complete the scoring.
Wales were full value for their win and in particular showed great patience in breaking down the defensive system of the Swiss. This win should give the team increased confidence moving forward although there is still room for improvement particularly in converting opportunities into goals and being patient when in possession.
DAY 3: Sunday 8th July 2012
“Move over Mario” as Merthyr’s answer to Balotelli , Toby Roper, scored a dramatic penalty corner with 40 seconds remaining in the game to bring Wales level and ensure that they finished second behind Ireland in the Celtic Cup in Edinburgh on Sunday.
This was no more than Wales deserved as they again dominated possession for large parts of the game with little reward whereas Scotland scored from their sole penalty corner early in the second half.
Wales was forced to make a late change to the starting line up with Alf Dinnie replacing Jamie Rawlings who broke his hand in the warm up, leaving only four subs to rotate during the game. Wales began the game slowly but gradually established a good rhythm and began passing with fluency at the back. With Kasto, Furlong and Francis prominent in the midfield, the team began probing away at the Scottish defence and only poor delivery into the circle prevented clear cut chances being made.
Scotland remained dangerous on the counter attack with their aerials the major threat as the Welsh back line failed to deal with a number adequately. However, Scotland only briefly threatened the Wales D as players jumped back in defence well. Wales continued to press and a lack of diving technique prevented Morgan Gwyn Harries from converting a well worked move late on in the first half. Half time finished all square at 0-0.
The second half began with Wales pressing the Scottish defence and probing for openings. However, the home defence was resolute and did not yield. Indeed, it was a long ball from defence that forced Scotland’s first and only penalty corner on 50'. From this corner, Scotland scored after Roblin in the Welsh goal could only deflect the ball into the net after a low drag flick.
This could have knocked the confidence of the Welsh players but they continued to live in ‘the moment’ and continued to play some neat hockey but lacked composure in the final third as time and time again, half chances were not taken and Wales did not get the reward their build up play deserved. However, coaches Capper and Roberts will be happy with the way in which their young charges kept on battling as time began to ebb away. With the Scots retreating to their 23 metre line, Wales continued to be patient in probing for openings and stuck to the game plan and, sure enough, the side obtained a penalty corner with 45 seconds left on the clock. The first shot was saved, then the second and finally Roper flicked the ball in off the post to prompt bench-clearing celebrations.
Wales can look forward to developing from this over the next year and with a nucleus of the side still available next year, the side should do well in the European championships in 2013.