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French avoid further toasting by Ireland

Although they had thrashed France 7-0 on the way to victory in the Celtic Cup, an experimental Irish men's hockey squad was pushed harder by their Gallic rivals in three Tests at Cookstown last week.

With Graham Shaw and Stephen Butler retired, John Jermyn and David Hobbs taking sabbaticals and Tim Lewis injured, coach Paul Revington was using the opportunity to experiment, with qualification for the London Olympics the top priority.

Against a French side at full strength, the Irish did well to win 3-1 in the first match. A goal from Timmy Cockram in the 19th minute put the hosts ahead. Not until well into the second half did Andy McConnell make it two for Ireland, although the French made their only score of the match four minutes later. A third goal from Chris Cargo copper-fastened a nervy Irish victory.

In the drawn second match, the French took an early lead when Joost Jasen scored in the 12th minute. Not until after the break did Alan Southern equalise for Ireland from a drag flick.

In a thrilling third match, the French were three goals ahead with just a quarter of an hour to go. Eugene Magee at last put Ireland on the scoresheet and David Ames made it two before Magee snatched a third to give Ireland a heroic draw.

In the Junior Celtic Cup, also in Cookstown, Scotland took the honours after a 4-4 draw with the Irish.

At Belfield, the Irish women's team was entertaining Australia, currently ranked fifth in the world. Only a few days earlier, the Irish had lost 0-6 to the Hockeyroos in Germany.

Although Australia went on the attack from the start, a determined Irish defence held.

Only in the second half did Australia take the decisive goal that gave them a 1-0 victory.

Even better was the second match. With both sides defending and attacking well, Australia broke the deadlock just three minutes from time with an Emily Hurtz goal.

Both sides were tired for the third Test.

Australia took the lead in the 16th minute and added three more before Lisa Jacob snatched a deserved consolation goal for the Irish.

Next up for Irish hockey is the U16 Eurohockey Youth Nations in Barcelona starting on Monday.