Friday 9 December 2016

Ireland's Olympic hopes get off to promising start

Hockey team turns in a magnificent performance against one of the sport's giants

Published 07/08/2016 | 02:30

Ireland’s Michael Darling and India’s Chandanda Thimmaiah fight for the ball during the men’s field hockey India v Ireland match. AFP/Getty Images
Ireland’s Michael Darling and India’s Chandanda Thimmaiah fight for the ball during the men’s field hockey India v Ireland match. AFP/Getty Images

Ireland's Olympic dreams got off to an encouraging start when our hockey team turned in an outstanding performance, only to go down 3-2 against India, which is traditionally classed as one of the world powers of the game.

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While the shadow of the boxing doping controversy continues to hang over the Irish camp, a gritty and fearless performance by the hockey players provided a much-needed boost.

Padraig McCarthy of Ireland on ‘Simon Porloe’ in the dressage competition. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Padraig McCarthy of Ireland on ‘Simon Porloe’ in the dressage competition. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The Indian hockey team were on a high following a sequence of impressive results in the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, in which they went down to the world champions, Australia, in the finals following a controversial penalty shootout

Goalies from both sides - Sreejesh and Hart - were on top of their game yesterday, with all five goals coming directly or as a result of penalty corners.

For India, Raghunath opened the scoring with a perfect drag flick in a side that is considered as a possible medal winner at the Games.

Rupinder increased India's lead when he converted two more penalty corners.

Nicolas Roche of Ireland, left of centre, in the men’s road race. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Nicolas Roche of Ireland, left of centre, in the men’s road race. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

But the Irish battled bravely throughout, eventually going down by the odd goal in five.

Read more: Olympic round-up: Heartache for Irish hockey team; Paddy Barnes knows who he will face on Monday

Among the other athletes to don the green of Ireland were cyclists Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche in the men's road race.

The pair, who are also cousins, competed in the 237km road race in Fort Copacabana.

Ireland’s Sanita Pusspure during the women’s singles sculls at the Lagoa Stadium. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Ireland’s Sanita Pusspure during the women’s singles sculls at the Lagoa Stadium. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

They have both been performing well this year.

Martin finished ninth in the Tour de France and Roche ninth in the recent Clasica San Sebastian, a one-day race of similar length to the Olympic course.

It's the third Olympic Games for Roche and Martin's second.

The road race is considered by many as having the toughest Olympic parcours in many years.

Starting in Fort Copacabana on the coast, the riders took in two separate circuits before finishing back where they started.

Both circuits featured considerable climbs, and it was the final section that proved the most decisive, with the riders tackling a significant 8.5km ascent.

The treacherous descent claimed a number of pre-race favourites including Australia's Richie Porte as well as Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, who was leading when he sensationally crashed out.

Belgium's Greg van Avermaet won gold after a sprint finish.

Dan Martin finished 13th with Nicolas Roche 29th.

Sunday Independent

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