Wednesday 12 December 2018

Brothers ready to go to war as Irish expect 'feisty affair' with old enemy in World Cup

Ireland could play England in a chess game in a World Cup and there would be huge interest, insists Conor Harte. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ireland could play England in a chess game in a World Cup and there would be huge interest, insists Conor Harte. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Rod Gilmour in Bhubanswar

Ireland's players were afforded a private visit to a temple on Wednesday, away from the glare of autograph hunters and inquisitive locals.

It was very much the calm before the storm, according to Ireland defender Conor Harte. "Ireland could play England in a chess game in a World Cup and there would be huge interest," said Harte.

With double world champions Australia pre-tournament favourites to top Pool B, today was always likely to see who would finish second or third ahead of the cross-over matches.

But with both European nations having drawn with China, the upshot is that one team is expected to depart the tournament early should they lose. Ireland need a draw but England will most likely be going home without maximum points. Both sides could still go through with a draw if China ship four goals to Australia earlier.

England and Ireland will know the result, but given the fractious rivalry between the two sides, it will be a frantic evening under the Kalinga Stadium lights.

"It's going to be a battle," said Shane O'Donoghue. "Both teams will be aware of that based on previous games. It was always going to come down to this game. It's one for the fans and it's always a feisty affair."

Past games include last summer's EuroHockey encounter, where there was a semi-final place at stake. O'Donoghue's 10-minute sin-bin for an altercation with former Irish player David Ames paved the way for Ireland's defeat, an infringement the 26-year-old says he has learnt from.

"Those situations are always difficult," added O'Donoghue. "It's important to stay in the moment and not let the emotion catch you and play the occasion.

"I have my views and I wasn't too fond of what Amesy did. It's water under the bridge and for the crowd it will be a competitive game."

Ames, for his part, said they've learned not to take Ireland's challenge for granted. "We have consistently got better at knowing that they are not as bad as we think and we need to make sure we're ready," he said.

Yesterday World No 8 Spain became the first team to be eliminated in India after they squandered a two-goal lead against New Zealand and the 2-2 draw left them needing the lowest-ranked team - France - to lose to Olympic champions Argentina.

But the French stunned the world No 2 with an attacking performance that saw them remarkably take a 4-1 lead before finishing 5-3 winners to finish second in their pool, and so the Spanish become the first major casualties of the tournament. The ramifications of that are now there to see.

If the Green Machine draw or win, they are almost certainly going to finish second in their pool and can look forward to facing New Zealand in the crossover play-offs on Monday.

The only way they could end up facing France is if China spring a major surprise and get a positive result against world champions Australia in this morning's encounter (11.30am).

England know a win takes them into the play-offs and eliminates Ireland, but a draw might be sufficient for them providing China lose their game by three or more goals which is a possibility.

It's certainly going to be an intriguing game, especially with three Ulstermen in the England team including their captain Cookstown's Ian Sloan, while the Gleghorne brothers will run out on different teams.

The Antrim siblings, of course, have already faced each other numerous times since striker Mark made the switch from Ireland to England, while defender Paul stayed with the Green Machine, but this is arguably the most important one for both.

Paul, a stalwart of the Irish defence, wins his 218th Irish cap today while Mark goes on to 233, made up of 80 with Ireland, 48 with Great Britain and 105 with England.

He showed what he can do with a superb penalty corner conversion against China last week.

Ireland v England, Live, BT Sport 1, 1.30

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