Sport Hockey

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Ireland prepare for 'tough' China clash that could define their World Cup

Ireland captain David Harte. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland captain David Harte. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Rod Gilmour

Such was the positive mindset after their narrow opening defeat to Australia last week, Ireland captain David Harte wanted to immediately don his helmet the following day and put China to the test.

The schedule doesn't allow for such offerings, with hockey's traditional tournament double-headers being sidelined in this extended, three-week World Cup in India.

Thus, Ireland have had four days to prepare for today's China game, a pool clash which will set the tone on how the Green Machine and England treat their Friday clash.

As it is, the schedule has allowed a fully-fit Ireland time to assess video footage of the world No 17 side - who haven't beaten Ireland in their last four matches - which will likely see one tactic employed against Alex Cox's charges.

"They will be a tough side," Sean Murray said yesterday.

"They have skill and like to play a few aerials. We are ready for it."

Murray put in an impressive display against Australia as the 21-year-old's stock continues to rise after signing pre-season for Dutch side HC Rotterdam.

He admitted: "Your level has to increase. I remember the first few sessions I was rusty, but I felt my game has already got a lot better in the nine games I've played. Hopefully for another few years it will get better and better."

Finishing

After finishing his degree last year, Murray could also focus on being a full-time hockey player, rather than worry about any financial constraints.

"Not many people get that opportunity," he added.

Murray also laid on the sublime pass for Shane O'Donoghue's goal against the Kookaburras, a strike which could see him today become Ireland's leading scorer if he nets against China.

"Shane is fantastic, he scores a lot of drag-flicks but a lot of field goals too," said Murray.

"He's still young (25) and is a serious player. We call him a quarterback for our midfield, which is a good name to have. He really is the link from the midfield to forwards from defence."

Meanwhile, Matthew Nelson, the fastest Irishman to reach 50 caps last week, hinted that Ireland could offer a more expansive game against China, a nation comprising of 18 players from Inner Mongolia thanks to a healthy domestic structure in the northern region of the country.

Nelson said: "We're looking really solid now defensively but what we want is a more offensive push, to attack teams and not sit back and defend."

Ireland v China,

Live, BT Sport 1, 1.30

Irish Independent

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