Again the same song at OR: 'Five years just not good enough'

This year it had to happen for Oranje-Rood. Press the kettle, all eyes on one goal : the playoffs. But season 2022/2023 seems to be just such a season as the four before. One in which the people of Eindhoven do not compete for the title.

There he lay. In the pouring rain. OR captain Joep de Mol, just after the final whistle after the lost ‘do or die’ against Pinoké (2-1). Defeated like a boxer who has just taken a knockout. Counted out, so close to the center line. His stick resting on his shoulder like a malfunctioning weapon. 

Shortly afterwards, De Mol stood up and pounded angrily against the turf with his stick with one hand. Like he wanted to cut it in half. Frustration dripped from his grim face. He came to the dressing room in a soaking wet shirt. Searching for words for the worthless afternoon and with it a lost season. 

‘It doesn’t happen often that I don’t know what to say,’ De Mol exclaims. “I felt we were far enough as a team to win here. That we were ready to get three points here. Or at least one point. And were ready to compete in the playoffs. It is then a painful realization that you are not good enough again. We had quite a few chances to at least make it 2-2. But we just fell short.’

Then that rock-solid conclusion: ‘We’re not good enough again’. 

Six words that say everything about the past five years of Oranje-Rood. In 2018, the Brabant team reached the play-offs for the last time. Back then with the skeleton of the golden Orange Black, which lifted three national titles between 2014 and 2016. The glory days of club legends such as Bob de Voogd, Mink van der Weerden and Robert van der Horst. Years in which winning prizes was the rule rather than the exception and the pot of gold seemed to be at the end of the rainbow in the Genneper Parks. 

De Mol lying on the field, just after the final whistle. Photo: Koen Suyk

‘Good enough for the top two’

De Mol joined that successful group as a young talent and experienced the titles of 2015 and 2016. Then followed, strangely enough, about the same time as the transition to the Oranje-Rood fusion club, so the years of drought. ‘It is very painful that we have not been good enough all these five years. Usually fifth or sixth, while we have more than enough quality. Good enough to hear best four, three or two. That just hurts. I felt we were more stable than last season.’

OR started cautiously against Pinoké, but put all his cards on the table eight minutes before the end. Keeper Nieki Verbeek, the replacement for the injured Pirmin Blaak , was replaced by a field player when they trailed 2-0. Feels like a pretty early guess. But coach Jeroen Baart thought otherwise. “I considered changing it even earlier,” says the Belgian. ‘At the end of quarter three, for example. I had wanted to do it then, but Robert van der Horst (assistant, ed.) convinced me to wait. Rightly so, because we already had the momentum back then. They already collapsed, so it was not necessary then. We could use that little extra in the end. But unfortunately we didn’t get further than one goal. We created enough, but we gave too much away.’

OR is disappointed as it comes pouring down from heaven. Photo: Koen Suyk

Nobody believes in a miracle

De Mol: ‘I think it is too easy to say that we will not finish our chances. It is a recurring theme that we find difficult to score. That also shows in the end, then we miss the killer instinct. Sometimes we come across them too easily. That second one today, a cross like that that comes through… it shouldn’t actually go in.’

“I really believed in it,” says the international, who was passed over for the World Cup last winter. ‘I wasn’t really impressed with what Pinoké showed either. Not all season. They mainly threw the high ball over it, defended tightly and leaned on Alexander Hendrickx’s corner. But they are capable of winning such a match and we are not. Then you can play beautiful and fun hockey, but in the end it’s about being among the best four. But that didn’t work out again this season.’

So emotionally it is already ready for Orange-Red, which will meet Kampong in the last round on Saturday. In fact, it is still possible, if Pinoké does not win against the relegated Voordaan on the same day. But no one in the Eindhoven camp still believes in that miracle. De Mol: ‘With all due respect to Voordaan: I don’t think Pinoké will leave it there. Today a playoff spot was awarded. Not next week. That hurts. But it is the reality.’ 

So there seems to be little else to do than cry and say goodbye, the captain knows. “We just have to try to straighten our backs and end the season in style. Thomas Briels will play his last game for us next week. Let’s give him a nice farewell.’


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