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Saturday 19 April 2014

Hockey: Harte playing through pain as Ireland bid to climb table

Irish defender Conor Harte has had his durability tested to the full at this week's Champions Challenge in Buenos Aires.

The Corkman, now playing his club hockey in Holland, suffered a nasty crack on his little finger during Saturday's 4-3 defeat by Argentina.

And he was in the wars once more in the 3-0 loss on Sunday, taking a painful knock on the shin as he charged down a Japanese shot at a penalty corner.

Despite the hardship endured, the centre-half with the long reach played a full part in training as the squad prepared to meet South Africa and a chance to haul themselves off the bottom of the Group B table.

Harte made light of the physical knocks and made it clear what hurt most: "The morale is a bit bruised. To come on the wrong side of a 3-0 loss after dominating for 70 minutes is very tough to take."

CHALLENGE

Ireland's opponents today, South Africa, present a very physical challenge, with a style based on direct running and power with a handful of strikers all capable of scoring great goals.

However, they have drafted in a number of youngsters in place of experienced Olympians and the result is that they lack consistency.

Irrespective of today's result, Irish coach Andrew Meredith expects that his charges will be playing crack Asian opposition when the tournament moves into its knockout phase on Thursday.

Korea denied Ireland a place at the London Games, while Malaysia are now benefiting from the coaching talent of Andrew Meredith's predecessor Paul Revington.

For the slow-starting Irish, the Champions Challenge has certainly not lost interest.

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