Thursday 18 July 2019

Cox rues mistakes as Ireland fail to boost World Cup placing

Men's FIH series final: France 3 Ireland 1

Sean Murray scored Ireland’s only goal with a close-range finish. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for FIH
Sean Murray scored Ireland’s only goal with a close-range finish. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for FIH

Stephen Findlater

Ireland's upbeat FIH Series campaign ended on a low note as hosts France showed an extra level to win the final 3-1 in Le Touquet.

It was a marked contrast to Saturday's doggedly excellent 4-2 win over Korea that earned the final berth along with a ticket to October's Olympic qualifiers.

In the wake of that success, the side spoke of the heart and hunger that is indicative of the Green Machine's rise in recent years to the world's top table. It was evident in spades as they held on for a famous first win over the Asian side in tournament play.

But Sunday's loss to a hugely impressive French side left coach Alexander Cox frustrated that the same accuracy allied to passion could not be repeated.

"We put in effort of course, but just putting in effort is different from trying to play the best game that you can," he said.

"We made so many mistakes on the ball; we tried to work off the ball but if you make so many mistakes, then you can't win a game."

The final carried with it crucial world ranking points which will affect who Ireland play in the Tokyo qualifiers later this year. Cox was angry to leave behind a chance to improve that outlook.

"It's simple, we need ranking points to have a favourable draw and maybe a home one. So it p***es me off because we didn't perform for the ranking points. We could have because we did yesterday but we didn't do it today."

It was Ireland's first loss in 12 outings against the French who, while lower ranked, are on the rise after a run to the last eight of the World Cup.

They went in front 10 minutes in, courtesy of Blaise Rogeau's rocket to the roof of the net.

Sean Murray replied with a close-range finish from Ben Walker's pass but the French were back in front seven minutes before half-time when Victor Charlet powered home a set piece.

He added another early in the second half and the hosts duly controlled the second half for long periods to see out the win.

"Of course, it will look better in a week's time because we have qualifed but the last game that you play is always the one you remember," Cox added.

Where it leaves Ireland in terms of qualifier opponents remains up in the air. It looks likely Ireland will need a final four run at August's European Championships to have a chance at a home draw but it will be tough with top sides Germany and the Netherlands in their group.

Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, J Bell, E Magee, S O'Donoghue, S Murray, B Walker, D Walsh, C Harte, L Cole, S Cole

Subs: M Bell, L Madeley, M Nelson, N Glassey, M Robson, P Gleghorne, J Carr

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