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The Home Nations thrilling EuroHockey Championship II journey – progress through determination

This week sees both the women’s and the men’s EuroHockey Championship II tournaments held in Britain; the women’s in Cardiff, Wales whilst the men’s is hosted by Scotland up in Glasgow.  European nations have come over to the British isles to compete for the chance to rise into the highest tier of European Hockey, raising their profile and extending the opportunities available to them.  Currently Ireland, Scotland Women’s and England are already competing at the highest level, however both Welsh teams and the Scottish Blue Sticks are hot on their heals, aiming for the top and flying through the group stages, all a testament to British hockey and the fundamental work that has been put in place in order to compete like they are.

Over the week we have had the chance to catch up with a few members of the national teams: Jo Westwood from Wales Women’s team, David Forsyth from the Scottish Blue Sticks and even Corinna Zerbs from Austria.  Although they all have a fascinating story to tell, they all had a similar underlying spirit and force that drive them through to their international roles, which they uphold so gracefully.  There is talent, of course – this goes without saying, but there is also hard work.  Hard work ensures that they’re the elite hockey heroes of their nations, especially as hockey players across the globe knows, their training schedule has to fit around full time professional roles, friend, family, loved ones, and other commitments.  When they put on that shirt they’re not just playing for themselves, they’re playing for everyone in hockey.

Where are they at now?  Here’s a round up of how Wales Men and Women, and Scotland, have done during the group stages.

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Wales Men

The Welsh men have found themselves in an unbeaten position, going into the semi-finals on Friday after beating Czech Republic 2-1 in their opening game to put them on the right track.  The middle group game saw them defeat Switerland in a sublime way, with Owain Dolan-Gray starting off the goal scoring festival in the second quarter.  Final score was an incredible 9-0!  The final match was against tough opponents Russia, however Gareth Furlong ensured that Wales got through to the semi-finals by scoring both of Wales goals.  Wales were up 2-0 until Russia fought back, retaliating with 2 goals for themselves, the final score at 2-2.

Wales topped Pool B to head on over to the next stage of the competition where they will play France on Friday, 1th of August.

Wales Women

The ladies got off to a fantastic start beating convincingly with a huge 6-1 scoreline.  Their follow-up match against Poland proved more challenging, with the goal coming from Pheobe Richards late in the final quarter.  Although 1-0, a win is a win.  Next they faced Belarus, a strong opponent who is ranked 21 in the world.  The ladies in red were trailing from the first quarter and wasn’t able to catch up to the confident Belarus team, who won 4-2. Although the match didn’t go their way, Wales were still able to celebrate because captain Abi Welsford and vice Leah Wilkinson both broke the record for most international caps won – beating a record that was held for over 30 years by Welsh and GB legend Anne Ellis.

They will face Russia in the semi finals on Friday, 11th of August at 4:30pm.

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Scotland Men

The Scottish Blue Sticks finished top of Pool A after beating Ukraine 2-1 in their final game of the group stages.  Chris Gassick celebrated his 100th cap during this integral game, and Alan Forsyth, brother of David, made sure they were victorious with 2 goals under his belt.  Scotland beat France, the highest ranked team in the tournament in Glasgow, in their opening game, with a 2-1 score.  Their next game against Portugal saw a very dominant Blue Sticks taking control of the game from the off: final score being 6-1 to the blues.

The home advantage clearly playing an important role in the Scots’ quest to reach the next level, which they will use in their semi-final match against Russia on Friday.

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