Ireland exorcise Maltese ghosts at ENC

Since Ireland first played Malta competitively at the first IHF Challenge Trophy in 1999 in Cyprus there has been a friendly rivalry between both federations. On that occasion Ireland were beaten in the round robin part of the competition but regrouped the next day to beat the Maltese and take 5th place.

Since then the Irish have endured a string of defeats at the Challenge Trophy against our fellow islanders in 2003, 2005 in Dublin, a 25-25 draw in 2007 and defeat again in 2009 in Malta. The bad run continued in Kosovo at the 1st Emerging Nations Championships in Kosovo and even last year at a friendly tournament in Malta the Boys in green were beaten twice by Malta.

So after a bruising battle on Wednesday against Turkey Ireland picked themselves up to put in a tough shift to bring the Maltese Hoo Doo to an end.

Ireland led from start to finish in a composed manner even without their injured captain, Alex Kulesh. Every other player seemed to up their game by 10-15 % to compensate for his loss.

Roman Abramenko, head coach of Ireland: We respect many of Malta, this is a great team. I am very proud and happy with our victory today. Maybe we had more luck. Our next game will be against Azerbaijan. We do not know, but I want to take this opportunity to thank Turkey and Kosovo lessons we received in the group stage. As can be seen, we are now totally different team, a much more mature and we are ready to face any team.

Colm Thiel, left wing Ireland: A big win for us. Many wanted to win because in November we lost twice in Malta and our goal was to win this game for Ireland and I am glad that we did. We continue to play a match to match, will fight against anyone and we will try to beat everyone.

Ireland now move on to play Azerbaijan at 12 noon on Saturday (Irish time).

The Azerbaijan team won’t mistakenly underestimate the boys in green.


IReland and Malta line up before the game.

IReland and Malta line up before the game.