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Hockey: Watt double keeps Ireland on track for London berth

Ireland had to be happy with three goals as they extended their unbeaten run in the Olympic Games hockey qualifier in Belfield last night.

A couple of strikes from Spanish-based Ulsterman Mikey Watt were the highlight of a game in which the home side never found the momentum that had taken them to a record haul of 12 against Ukraine last weekend.

The result means that a place in Sunday's final, with an invitation to the London Games for the winner, will hinge on tomorrow's match against Malaysia, with the Irish requiring no more than a draw.

Last night's threatened thrashing of the Chileans never materialised, though the hosts bossed midfield and lorded it at the back, with goalkeeper Davy Harte required to make just one meaningful touch all evening.

Ireland had their foot in the door within six minutes of tip-off after Watt won the first penalty corner of the night, converted low and hard by Timmy Cockram. Seconds later, Mitch Darling had 'keeper Mathias Anwandter reaching high to pluck a shot from under his bar, but that proved to be the closest shave of the remainder of the half.

Charmed

Anwandter led a charmed life as he stood tall to keep John Jermyn at bay at the set-pieces, while chances falling to Peter Caruth, Stuart Loughrey and Geoff McCabe all went abegging. It was left to Watt to complete the scoring with his poacher's eye for an opening as he registered a brace of contrasting goals after the interval.

His first was a long shot, squeezed with formidable power through a gap that opened up in the crowded defence to fly past the 'keeper's left kicker on 42 minutes. The second was a more subtle effort on 53 minutes, dinking the ball from close range through the posse of Chileans guarding the line after Jermyn supplied the pass.

With Conor Harte out of the defence in the wake of Tuesday's knock to the head during the draw with Korea, coach Paul Revington had the opportunity rejig his side.

Loughrey was handed more responsibility and Andy McConnell was pulled back from midfield to have an occasional run at full-back.

The Malaysians, meanwhile, came out on the wrong end of five-goal battle with Korea yesterday, blowing more cold than hot against the tournament's most highly ranked outfit. Barring an unlikely collapse against Russia tomorrow, this propels Korea into the final.

Ireland -- D Harte, J Jackson, G McCabe, R Gormley, M Watt, E Magee, M Darling, T Cockram, D Ames, P Gleghorne, S Loughrey. Subs: C Cargo, J Jermyn, P Caruth, A McConnell, I Sloan.

Chile -- M Anwandter, A Fuenzalida, J Zirpel, JP Purcell, J Zarhi, C Rodriguez, M Rodriguez, A Berzcely, S Richter, F Binder, J Richter. Subs: LF Montegu, I Gajardo, P Kohler, J Berczely, R Achondo.

Umpires -- G Uyttenhove (Belgium), J Shaikh (India).

Irish Independent