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Ireland push top-ranked Australia all the way in World Cup opener

Alexander Cox’s side fell just short of picking up a big result in their tournament opener in India.

Shane O'Donoghue celebrates Ireland's equaliser.
Shane O'Donoghue celebrates Ireland's equaliser.
Image: Getty Images for FIH

Australia 2

Ireland 1 

IRELAND WILL TAKE little consolation from a narrow opening night defeat, but the way in which they performed, and troubled, the back-to-back world champions Australia augurs well for the rest of this tournament.

Ultimately, Ireland’s first outing at the Men’s Hockey World Cup in 28 years ended in defeat, but there was so much like about the way they played, adopting a counter-attacking game plan, battling valiantly for every inch and pushing the Wallabies — ranked number one — all the way.

Tim Brand’s third-quarter strike settled the Group B opener in Bhubaneswar, after Ireland had rebounded impressively having fallen behind inside the early exchanges.

Sean Murray was the orchestrator for Ireland’s equaliser, as his midfield burst saw him accelerate past two Australia defenders, before flicking the ball into the path of Shane O’Donoghue, who did the rest with a delightful finish past Andrew Charter.

Ireland’s defensive effort, led by the imperious David Harte in goal, frustrated Australia and having stoically held out until half-time, were proving a match for the tournament favourites at the Kalinga Stadium.

The Green Machine’s resistance was, however, broken three minutes into the third quarter, as Brand started and finished a clinical counter-attacking move, although Harte was unlucky to see the ball fall back to the Aussie forward having produced a fine initial stop.

Cox’s side, ranked 10th in the world, pushed for a late leveller but having expended huge energy resources in the first hour of the contest, struggled to mount any meaningful pressure on the Australian goal. 

gettyimages-1066706568-594x594 Chris Cargo puts pressure on Flynn Ogilvie. Source: Getty Images for FIH

O’Donoghue was a lively presence throughout and his brilliant piece of individual skill, as he controlled and flicked it over the advancing goalkeeper on the volley, was his 93rd international goal, drawing him level with the Irish goalscoring record. 

Paul Gleghorne, Matthew Nelson, Lee Cole and Jonny Bell all had standout games at the back, and there is certainly grounds for optimism heading into Tuesday’s crucial game against China [1.30pm, BT Sport].

Victory there would leave Ireland in prime position to finish at least in third position in the group, which would ensure their passage through to the crossover games, ahead of the final outing against England.

Speaking after the game, coach Cox said: “Our players put their bodies on the line for the result today, we always knew this was going to be a physical game against the world number one team.

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“It wasn’t the result we wanted but I’m very proud of the whole team, we gave it our all and were in the game until the final whistle.”

Ireland: David Harte, Conor Harte, Jonny Bell, Chris Cargo, Matthew Nelson, Eugene Magee, Shane O’Donoghue, Sean Murray, Mitch Darling, Paul Gleghorne, Stuart Loughrey.

Rolling subs: Matthew Bell, Alan Sothern, Michael Robson, Daragh Walsh, Lee Cole, Kirk Shimmins.

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Ryan Bailey

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