Sport Hockey

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Harte hails fighting Irish despite narrow opening defeat to Aussies

Australia 2 Ireland 1

Shane O'Donoghue of Ireland celebrates after scoring during the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup Pool B match between Australia and Ireland at Kalinga Stadium on November 30, 2018 in Bhubaneswar, India. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images for FIH
Shane O'Donoghue of Ireland celebrates after scoring during the FIH Men's Hockey World Cup Pool B match between Australia and Ireland at Kalinga Stadium on November 30, 2018 in Bhubaneswar, India. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images for FIH

Rod Gilmour

Captain David Harte believes that a lengthy World Cup run is still possible for Ireland despite suffering an opening World Cup defeat to Australia, the world champions.

Harte had to deal with flying bugs in his goalkeeper helmet and a rampant Australian attack as Alex Cox's side were edged out in their first World Cup match since 1990.

Shane O'Donoghue netted his 93rd goal to draw level with John Jermyn as Ireland's leading goalscorer, either side of strikes from Blake Govers and Tim Brand as the world No 1 side prevailed in an entertaining encounter.

"I don't think the 2-1 scoreline does the game justice as we were the better team in the first half," admitted Harte. "But we know if we keep putting in performances like that then the World Cup will be a long one for us.

Scrappy

"The whole defence stood up. Alex, our coach, said he wanted to see the Irish that he knows and we gave him exactly what he knows: scrappy and determined. I'm incredibly proud of what we did out there.

"For many of us, it is our first World Cup out there and also for many of the guys a first major tournament at this extent of level, in front of an electric crowd."

However, defeat still offered Ireland hope of qualifying second from the group after England could only draw 2-2 with China, the World Cup debutants who scored with 90 seconds remaining.

Both teams sat deep waiting to counter and a plethora of openings ensued in the opening quarter.

A Johnny Bell reverse pass into the circle forced two saves from Andrew Charter, the best chance of which fell to Matthew Nelson from an overhead volley.

Five minutes later, Australia were awarded a penalty stroke when a deflected ball landed on Paul Gleghorne's chest but was overturned after Harte called for a video review. The Kookaburras' attacks continued and an immediate riposte saw Grovers fire a piercing drag-flick which Harte couldn't stop.

Ireland's equaliser was worth the 28-year World Cup wait. Seán Murray was once again involved as his slip pass found O'Donoghue with space to scoop the ball and slot home from chest high past Charter.

The second half initially slowed in tempo, but Harte was never out of the action in Ireland's goal. In attack, O'Donoghue had a chance for a record-breaking score but his penalty corner flick was well saved.

Brand was then fed an incisive pass through into the circle. Harte was quick off his line to smother, but the Australian produced a swift hit on the reverse into an open net.

As time ticked on, Alan Sothern found himself free in the circle for Ireland's best chance of the third quarter but couldn't control and the ball ran free.

Ireland - D Harte (c), J Bell, Cargo, Nelson, Magee, O'Donoghue, Murray, Darling, Gleghorne, C Harte, Loughrey. Subs: M Bell, Sothern, Shimmins, Robson, Walsh, Cole.

Australia - Charter, Hayward, Brand, Mitton, Beale, Swann, Howard, Govers, Whetton, Ockenden (c), Weyer. Subs: Craig, Harvie, Dawson, Ogilvie, Lovell, Wotherspoon.

Irish Independent

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