Wolfhounds Fall to Turkey in Cork

Just weeks removed from hosting the Shamrock Bowl, Cork’s MTU stadium was the venue once again as the Irish Wolfhounds took on Turkey in their European Championship Group B matchup. This was the first time the Wolfhounds had kitted up on home soil since their narrow defeat of Belgium back in 2018, and their first ever “competitive” game as the host team. 

After suffering defeat to Spain in their previous outing the Wolfhounds were seeking redemption in front of a raucous home crowd, but the Turks and their strong following of fans were in full voice. The visitors entered the field of play with a rousing chant, setting the tone for the joust from the outset. There was a tremendous showing of support for both teams down in the people’s republic. The stand was full and it was great to see such a turnout. 

Disaster struck almost immediately for the Wolfhounds on the opening kickoff courtesy of a dropped ball which the visitors recovered. A costly error, compounded moments later when Turkey’s Furkan Beyaz crossed into the endzone for an early score. It was the worst start possible, and Ireland looked to be reeling with less than 2 minutes gone in the game. The Irish offense did find a bit of momentum however through the arm and legs of QB Matty O’Meara. Ultimately though he could not connect with his receivers in the endzone and their first threat at scoring did not bear any fruit. 

Points left on the field would become a major theme of this game, and you couldn’t help but feel that the offense lacked just that little bit of extra chemistry required to connect on big scoring plays.  
O’Meara came up big again shortly after, hitting Cian Lawlor for a huge passing play but the offense was held short  – a Sean McVeigh rush stymied on the 1 yard line resulting in a second empty possession in a row. The score after Quarter 1 was 7-0 to Turkey. 

Both Offenses were plagued with struggles from the outset of the second quarter – a credit to the respective defenses forcing pressure but also in part due to poor discipline. Yellow flags littered the field for a multitude of infringements on either side. The Hounds D was particularly effective, forcing a 3 and out on Turkey’s opening possession of the quarter that resulted in a field goal and effectively kept the home side in the game. In fact, we have to tip our cap to Defensive Coordinator Brendan Kelleher for his well drilled Linebackers. # 54 Larry Doyle and Co. kept the home side in it with a massive sack fumble recovery in the 3rd quarter to get the ball back on the 50 yard line. 

Unfortunately the offensive struggles continued and despite reaching scoring distance yet again the Wolfhounds could not connect in the endzone and even missed on the ensuing field goal attempt. Finn Kearns stood out as the best player on the field in the first half, accounting for the majority of his teams yards and big plays. 

Ireland would eventually hit paydirt in the 3rd quarter, Matty O’Meara connecting with Greg Johnson on consecutive passes to drive his team to the redzone before eventually targeting Kearns on a beautiful pass to pull a score back. The extra point was mysteriously missed and the deficit was reduced to 10-6.  The visitors countered almost immediately through the powerful running of Aytac Mercan, who tacked on another score, making it 17-6 late in the penultimate period of play.  
Head Coach Ciaran O’Sullivan will surely be left pondering all the missed opportunities his side had for scores – both touchdowns and field goals. But you cannot fault this team for their effort and will, as on the very next Wolfhounds  possession Matty O’Meara had a huge hook up to Finn Kearns to put them in scoring range again. 

Misfortune struck once more on the ensuing play however when he threw an untimely interception which looked to end any sort of comeback hope. But don’t leave your seats just yet folks! A Turkish defensive pass interference call on the next drive gave Ireland a last minute lifeline and Ireland’s signal caller scrambled in for six! The 2 point attempt was good and Ireland were on the cusp of a comeback victory inside a minute to go! The atmosphere was electric in Cork! Were we about to witness a dramatic comeback victory? 

Sadly it was not to be as the onside attempt failed and Turkey wisely elected to kneel the clock out, sealing their victory. 

Despite what could be construed as a disappointing outcome, this Wolfhounds team showed plenty of flashes and should be very proud of their performance, especially on defense. They played with heart and grit and it’s clear to see that great things lie ahead.

Full time in Cork: Turkey 17 – Ireland 14.

Images kindly provided by Ian Humes

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