Irish eyes are smiling in Richmond
Call it the luck of the Irish if you will, but it was indeed a glorious weekend for the Eire.
First, Northern Ireland golf pro Rory McIlroy scored the British Open in Liverpool, completing a wire-to-wire lead to capture the third leg of the career grand slam Sunday morning. Then to cap the day, at Richmond's Hugh Boyd Park, major underdog Ireland got a late goal from Tiarnan King to stun a crowd of more than 3,000 and defending champion India 1-0 to win the Geoff Penniston Nations Cup.
Prior to kickoff of the men's Open Division final, there was some chatter that perhaps the Irish might have already emptied the tank. After all, they'd just earned an exhaustive 1-0 decision over Canada to secure their place in the title match against India, which itself needed extra time to slip past Croatia 2-1 in the other semifinal.
Additionally, Ireland had been required to go to penalties to advance from the group stage, defeating Germany 1-0.
But no one was able to measure the Irish's resolve.
Backstopped by often-spectacular goalkeeping of Luke O'Shea, who won The Richmond Review Trophy as the tournament's most outstanding player, and a never-say-die attitude, Ireland secured their second men's Open Division in four years with their win over India. They did so in 2014 with a young team that was considered by most pundits to be rebuilding.
"It's pretty sweet," admitted O'Shea, who deflected much of the credit to his teammates.
"I felt like I played pretty well, not conceding a goal in five games, but all the boys in front of me played well too and we had some key tackles every game—all of which could have gone either way. But we were able to get the W and finally win it all."
A Richmond resident, the lanky six-foot-two O'Shea—who this year will be going for Canadian Inter-university men's soccer threepeat after lifting University of B.C. to the national men's soccer championship in 2012 and 2013—said, like most people at Hugh Boyd Park Sunday, he anticipated the final match was headed for at least extra time. But against constant pressure from India for much of the second half, he was able to hold the fort until King was able to convert a late break into the game's only goal.
"It was definitely tough and a lot of the boys were really tired for the final," O'Shea said. "A lot of the younger boys had to step up, and played such great tournaments."
•In other men's division play, Portugal needed extra time—and a late goal to avoid penalty kicks—to slip past Italy in the over-30 final; India blanked Fiji 2-0 in the over-38 final; Fiji outscored Ireland 2-0 in the over-45 final; and Scotland scored a 3-0 win over China in the over-52 final.
Desmond Tachie of Africa won the A. Turner Sales Ltd. Trophy as the tournament's top goal scorer, while the John Craven Award was presented to Stu Walters of Ireland as the most outstanding defender.