Clash of the Ash!

Team Ireland re-wrote Ice Hockey history on Saturday, 17th April as they brought home a Gold Medal from the 2010 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division III A in Kockelscheuer, Luxembourg. However winning the Gold was only half the battle, getting it home was an entirely different matter altogether!!! When the team had their final face off, they didn’t realize that it would quite literally be a “clash of the ash”.

However it was not the clash of hockey sticks but volcanic ash from Iceland clashing with their flight schedules! Due to air traffic disruptions, the triumphant team made their way by land and sea before they finally reached Dublin Port at 6:00 am on Tuesday, 20th April after a gruelling trip by bus from Luxembourg to Calais, then by ferry to Dover, then by bus to Holyhead, then by sea to Dublin for the last leg of their epic journey! John Tracey, CEO of the Irish Sports Council, himself intervened along with Rory McDyer Travel in Dublin to liaise with the Ferry and coach companies in Ireland, the UK and France to bring home the Triumphant Green Giants.

With hard fought wins against Luxembourg on Wednesday (April 14th), Greece on Thursday (April 15th) and the UAE Team on Saturday (April 17th) Ireland brought home Gold. Over 2,000 people filled the Kockelscheuer Stadium each day in Luxembourg City to watch Ireland triumph in all three of their games. Ireland has only been competing on the World stage since 2004 and although the trophy cabinet consists of both bronze and silver medals, the significance of winning gold, shows just how far Team Ireland has progressed as a unit under the coaching team of Jim Tibbetts and Kenny Redmond.

In the opening game on Wednesday (April 14th at 8.30PM) both Luxembourg and Ireland tested each other’s nerves and their respective puck stoppers to the ultimate, however it was the Irish who scored first and went on to win 6-4. Dublin born Kelly Brothers Dean and Kevin Kelly really shone and were the mainstay of the Irish defence along with Cork man Ross O Driscoll. Dublin Goalie Kevin Kelly saved 33 out of 37 shots on goal whilst younger brother Dean was a stalwart defender throughout killing penalties and skating his heart out.

Ireland then went on to win against Greece on Thursday with a final score of 3-2. Team Ireland Captain and Belfast Giants player, Mark Morrison, lead the line for the Irish with two goals and assist for three points in the game. Morrison’s brother, David, was also playing and was again a stalwart in defence for the team. The icing on the cake came on Saturday when the Irish team beat United Arab Emirates 8-2 to bring Gold home for Ireland. Belfast born, Stephen Adams, picked up the Man of the Match award for Ireland as he scored two goals for Ireland.

The IIHL Recreational and Development Divisions came to a close on the same weekend in fantastic fashion with the Raiders piping the Flyers in a nail biting encounter that finished 4 – 3. Meanwhile, the Drogheda Icebreakers edged the Hawks B in a penalty shootout. The IIHA Learn to Play programme is also at full capacity and this gold medal will revitalise ambitions and dreams for young players coming through the Irish system. The bar has been set and the International ladder has been climbed.

Jim Tibbetts, Head Coach of Team Ireland said “The Irish community in Luxemburg did us proud supporting our boys in a full home atmosphere against the host nation and their fans. They definitely played their part in our victory. We are so proud of our victory and especially of Ireland’s Mark Morrison who was both forward of the tournament plus Man of the Tournament. Kevin Kelly the Irish goalie was voted net minder of the tournament” The former Providence Rhode Island College player and now highly recognized Olympic and European coach has been honing his all-Ireland squad in order to reach this achievement along with Dublin General Manager, Tony Griffin, Equipment Manager, John Crawley, and Assistant Coach, Kenny Redmond.

Team Ireland were due to return triumphantly on Sunday, April 18th but they now make a slow journey back to Ireland via land and sea as their travel plans were disrupted by current air traffic issues arising from volcanic ash but nothing can take away from the sweet taste of success that this team is celebrating!

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