Ireland's World Cup dream fails to take off as Cox's men bow out after England defeat
Goals from Chris Cargo and Shane O’Donoghue not enough for the Green Machine in India.

Ireland 2

England 4

IT’S HARD TO think of many crueller ways to exit a World Cup, but to do so at the end of a thrilling, madcap contest which yielded six goals and saw the momentum fluctuate from one side to another, this will be a particularly bitter pill to swallow for Ireland.

A draw would have been good enough for Alexander Cox’s side to advance through to the crossover stage and a shot at a historic quarter-final, but instead their tournament — and first Men’s Hockey World Cup appearance in 28 years — ends here after an agonising defeat to England.

gettyimages-1069397386-594x594 Getty Images for FIH Ireland dejected at full-time. Getty Images for FIH

The final score suggests there was greater disparity between the sides, and while England started the stronger, taking a first quarter lead, Ireland showed huge fight in the second stanza to rebound twice through goals from Chris Cargo and Shane O’Donoghue.

Ultimately, this high-stakes, tension-laden contest was settled in the space of three second-half minutes, as Ireland showed a greater cutting edge in attack to find a route back, only for England to go down the other end, shut the door and regain their lead. 

The seventh-ranked side always had their noses in front and, leading 3-2, managed the final quarter with relative conviction, before rubber-stamping the win with a last-gasp penalty corner. 

Mark Gleghorne, the former Ireland international and brother of Irish defender Paul, fired into the roof of the net after the Green Machine had tried in vain to find the goal which would have sent them through, leaving green shirts sprawled across the Kalinga Stadium pitch.

It was a painful way for Ireland’s World Cup odyssey to end, but the round two draw with China was the campaign-defining result, with the Asian side advancing through to the crossover stage along with England, while Pool B leaders Australia automatically progress to the quarter-finals.

Ireland, who head home, will reflect on this game, and indeed the tournament, with moments of regret, as they left themselves with too much to do, chasing a game and result which was never safely in their grasp.

Chris Cargo came close to snatching an equaliser in the final quarter, but he slapped a penalty corner rebound over the bar when on another day, it would have gone in. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. 

“This is painful, you never get used to losing,” head coach Cox said.

“I wasn’t happy with the first quarter, we were on the back-foot but in the second half we turned it around and gave it our all. I think in every game this tournament we had an opportunity to get a result but in the end, we weren’t clinical enough.

“We tried. I’m proud of the players and how they conducted themselves, we gave it our all throughout the tournament. We just have to make sure the next time we are on the other end of the result.” 

gettyimages-1069396962-594x594 Getty Images for FIH Shane O'Donoghue had drawn Ireland level in the second half. Getty Images for FIH

Buoyed by Australia’s 11-goal hammering of China earlier in the day, meaning they only required a point to advance, England were very much in the ascendancy for the opening quarter, as Ireland struggled for cohesion and clarity. 

The breakthrough goal came moments before the hooter, as Ireland were ruthlessly punished for stopping to appeal for a free on halfway, with England using the extra man down the right for David Condon to fire home past David Harte.

Replays clearly showed Phil Roper won the ball at the start of the move off his foot, but the goal stood and England’s advantage very nearly doubled before the break, only for Ian Sloan to slash over after bursting through a number of challenges. 

Cox’s side survived, and found a brilliant equalising goal early in the third quarter. 

In the first move of any fluidity, Sean Murray and Cargo combined on the edge of the circle, the latter pushing the ball goalwards and while it appeared Mitch Darling got the finishing touch, the goal was attributed to Cargo. 

Back on level terms, Ireland were hit almost instantly at the other end as David Ames found Liam Ansell on the left, who fired a rocket on his reverse from the edge of the circle, the sheer pace of the shot beating Harte at his near post.  

The dramatic nature of the contest continued apace, as O’Donoghue got two bites of the cherry from a penalty corner after Ireland had successfully reviewed a foot foul in the circle, the Dubliner firing a heavily-deflected drag flick into the top corner to level it at 2-2. 

Two goals from three shots from the Green Machine was a much better return than Tuesday’s profligacy against China, but the problem was at the other end.

gettyimages-1069395708-594x594 Getty Images for FIH Matthew Nelson presses England's Jack Waller. Getty Images for FIH

With time and space, Liam Sanford sent a powerful ball through the middle of the Irish defence, and James Gall was able to get in front of his man to apply an exquisite first-time touch to rattle it past the helpless Harte. 

Ireland had chances at the death to find the goal which would have sent them through, notably Cargo’s gilt-edge chance as he followed up a saved penalty corner, but the equaliser wasn’t forthcoming. 

As Ireland threw everything forward in search of an equaliser, sacrificing goalkeeper Harte for an extra man outfield, England sealed victory with the last play of the game, Gleghorne’s drag-flick ending the contest and confirming Ireland’s fate.

Ireland: David Harte, Jonathan Bell, Conor Harte, Paul Gleghorne, Stuart Loughrey, Chris Cargo, Shane O’Donoghue, Mitch Darling, Michael Robson, Alan Sothern, Eugene Magee. 

Rolling subs: Matthew Bell, Matthew Nelson, Kirk Shimmins, Sean Murray, Daragh Walsh, Lee Cole.

England: George Pinner, David Ames, Harry Martin, Mark Gleghorne, Adam Dixon, Barry Middleton, Liam Ansell, David Condon, Jack Waller, James Gall, Liam Sanford.

Rolling subs: Luke Taylor, Ian Sloan, Michael Hoare, Phil Roper, Will Calnan, Zachary Wallace. 

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Andy Dunne preview a big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points. 

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