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Late O'Donoghue fires Irish into the quarter-finals

 

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland men mirrored their female counterparts by reaching the knock-out phase of the World Cup qualifier with one pool game to spare - but they needed a last-gasp winner from Shane O'Donoghue to beat Egypt 2-1 yesterday in Johannesburg.

It was an unconvincing display but Craig Fulton's lads showed the necessary spirit to come from a goal down and grab the late winner to ensure they wouldn't be the first team to be eliminated from the WHL3 series which doubles as the World qualifier.

Now they have a three-day break before facing Rio Olympic bronze medallists Germany in the final pool game on Monday afternoon (3pm).

With the Germans beating South Africa 4-3 yesterday, it means that Belgium, Germany and Ireland are all locked on six points but the Green Machine have a considerably poorer goal difference, while South Africa and Egypt remain pointless.

But it's still unclear whether it will be New Zealand or European rivals Spain or France who will end up being Ireland's quarter-final opponents next week.

The Irish were dealt a blow prior to yesterday's game when their World No.1 goalkeeper David Harte was ruled out as a precaution following the concussion received after taking a full-blooded shot in his visor during the 6-2 defeat against Belgium on Tuesday.

And it looked ominous when his replacement Jamie Carr, with just 14 international caps, conceded in what was Egypt's first real attack in the 25th minute, Ahmed Elnaggar flicking over him as he advanced.

But the young keeper more than made amends with two fine saves later in the game, one from a penalty corner.

But overall it was difficult for the Irish to break down a defensively-minded side determined to hold on to their lead.

However, Ulsterman Chris Cargo gave the Irish hope just 36 seconds into the second half when he rounded a defender and his crisp shot across goal found the far corner of the net.

But still there was little sign of the Irish breaking through again until O'Donoghue had the ball in the net three minutes from time, only for it to be disallowed on the umpire's video referral as the ball had been played with the back of his stick.

However, the same player found the net again with just over one minute left when the Irish won their fifth penalty corner and this time he drag-flicked powerfully into the top right hand corner to secure a last-gasp and crucial winner.

"It was tricky and things didn't go as we would have liked," said O'Donoghue. "The big thing was that we kept our composure when it counted."

Meanwhile, it's another day off for the Irish women and they intend to take in the wonderful sights around Johannesburg before getting down to the business of preparing for their final pool game against England on Sunday (1pm).

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