Ire­land put bod­ies on the line to run cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia close in opener

Coach Cox ‘proud’ of ef­fort as Ir­ish cap­tain Harte has su­perb game in goal

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORTS - Johnny Wat­ter­son

Ire­land Aus­tralia 1 2

It was a fi­nal act of de­fi­ance by Ire­land when goal­keeper David Harte was taken off for the fi­nal few min­utes of their open­ing match in the men’s hockey World Cup in In­dia.

Coach Alexan­der Cox had set up Ire­land to frus­trate Aus­tralia with a de­fen­sive per­for­mance that will give them con­fi­dence against China on Tues­day and Eng­land in the fi­nal pool game.

The im­pulse from the Ir­ish coach, only in place five months, was for Ire­land to try to steal a late draw against the world num­ber one side as the sec­onds ticked away.

It at least showed am­bi­tion as Ire­land fell 2-1 against the de­fend­ing world cham­pi­ons, while other pool mem­bers Eng­land and China fin­ished with a 2-2 draw. A win and a draw from the next two games is prob­a­bly what Ire­land are now look­ing at to get a cross over match.

Against Aus­tralia Ire­land played a game that they could have lost by more goals and could also have drawn from the lim­ited num­ber of chances they cre­ated.

De­pend­ing on what stats you read Aus­tralia ended the fi­nal quar­ter with 16 shots on tar­get from 28 cir­cle pen­e­tra­tions. Ei­ther way it was very high.

From that the cor­rect con­clu­sion to make was that Ir­ish cap­tain Harte had an in­spired game in goal and was at the cut­ting edge of the Ir­ish de­fence along with his twin brother Conor, Lee Cole, Paul Gleghorne, Matthew Nel­son, and Jonny Bell, who took a rip­per of a Jeremy Hay­ward drag flick off the line on 36 min­utes.

But it was largely nervy stuff with Ire­land forced into mak­ing strings of de­fen­sive tack­les in their dan­ger zone, many times pluck­ing balls inches from goal­keeper Harte.

It was what Cox prob­a­bly ex­pected and from the tip-off Ire­land set­tled into a dis­ci­plined strat­egy of play­ing the match mostly in their own half, re­ly­ing on breaks to tem­per the Aus­tralian edge.

It took just 11 min­utes for Blake Govers to bring his scor­ing tally for Aus­tralia to 52 goals in 72 ap­pear­ances, when his drag flick at a re­taken penalty cor­ner whizzed by Harte’s left ear. On an­other day the Ir­ish goal­keeper may have got­ten a pad to it.

But within two min­utes Ire­land were level. In the next Ir­ish at­tack Sean Mur­ray slipped a for­ward ball into Shane O’Donoghue, run­ning a cross field line into the cir­cle.

The Dubliner flipped the ball up chest height and bat­ted it in the air past the ad­vanc­ing Aus­tralian goal­keeper An­drew Char­ter for 1-1. How was that for 3D skills? It was O’Donoghue’s 93rd Ir­ish goal equalling John Jermyn’s Ir­ish record.

Mis­fir­ing

Aus­tralia were mis­fir­ing and scuffed some chances, badly ex­e­cut­ing a few corners. Be­tween that, Ire­land’s ef­fec­tive scram­bling de­fence and like the women’s team did in Lon­don last sum­mer, play­ers run­ning a body line on the Aus­tralia shots, the com­mit­ment was work­ing.

Ire­land’s weak­ness was when they at­tacked and the struc­ture in de­fence was stretched. The Aus­tralian win­ner fi­nally came from an Ir­ish at­tack that broke down on the Aussie back­line.

Some close in­ter­play to move the ball out and then a quick trans­fer to Corey Weyer run­ning down a left chan­nel trig­gered the win­ning goal. Weyer hit the sweet­est of re­verse passes di­ag­o­nally to an un­marked Tim Brand on the right.

The man of the match was ini­tially saved by Harte but quick­est to the re­bound ball Brand dinked it high into an empty goal on the re­verse side for 2-1.

Aus­tralia con­tin­ued to press and Ire­land never stopped bit­ing with O’Donoghue’s ball through to Alan Soth­ern prob­a­bly the best Ir­ish chance but he just couldn’t pick it up and it was left to Harte and the blan­ket de­fence to tough it out.

“Our play­ers put their bod­ies on the line for the re­sult to­day,” said Cox after the match. It wasn’t the re­sult we wanted but I’m very proud of the whole team. We gave it our all and were in the game un­til the fi­nal whis­tle.” IRE­LAND:DHarte,CHarte,JBell,CCargo,M Nel­son,EMagee,SDonoghue,SMur­ray,M Dar­ling,PGleghorne,SLoughrey.Rolling­subs: MBell,ASoth­ern,MRob­son,DWalsh,LCole,K Shim­mons.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: INPHO

Ire­land’s Matthew Bell dives full length to get the bet­ter of Aus­tralia’s Tim in Bhubaneswar yes­ter­day.

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