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Brave Irish suffer pain in Spain due to late show

Spain 3-2 Ireland

By Graham Hamilton

It was agony for Ireland when they lost their second game in the Five Nations series on the Costa del Sol by conceding a goal in the dying minutes to hosts Spain.

Craig Fulton's men had twice come from a goal down to draw level with a team ranked above them on the world ladder but late Spanish pressure when they were down to 10 men cost them dearly.

There are still games to come in Benalmadena against Scotland tomorrow (4pm) and the USA on Saturday (1pm) and if Ireland play as well, then there is every chance they can add to Monday's 4-1 win over Canada.

Spain looked dangerous from penalty corners but keeper Jamie Carr pulled off a stick save from the first and padded out the second during the first quarter.

The Irish had several half-chances themselves with Peter Caruth having a shot booted clear by keeper Quico Cortes who also denied Shane O'Donoghue by getting down low to turn away Ireland's only penalty corner during this period.

O'Donoghue had another chance after good work by Chris Cargo but he flashed his shot across the face of the goal with Sean Murray unable to get his stick to it.

The Irish started the second half well and were unlucky when O'Donoghue's penalty corner rattled the crossbar.

But it was the Spanish who broke the deadlock when Sergi Enrigue found Marc Miralles unmarked in the circle and he powered past keeper Carr.

Neal Glassey then tested the Spanish keeper before O'Donoghue converted a penalty corner to level matters.

Back came the Spanish and Alvaro Iglesias volleyed home but within six minutes the Green Machine were level for the second time when Conor Harte converted a penalty corner.

But with three minutes to go Xavi Lleonart broke Irish hearts when he got in at the far post when Carr couldn't deal with a bouncing ball.

IRELAND: J Carr; M Bell, C Harte, P Gleghorne, L Cole; S O'Donoghue, S Murray, C Cargo; P Caruth, M Nelson, J Dale. Subs: J Bell, N Glassey, J McKee, D Walsh, J Duncan, S Loughrey, D Fitzgerald

Meanwhile Kilkeel are hoping to win twice in the next four days to leapfrog to the top of the Ulster Premier League table ahead of the split into the top seven and bottom seven.

The Mourne side, though, have two difficult games, with the trip to South Antrim tomorrow evening followed on Saturday by a home game against fourth placed Mossley.

The Newtownabbey side, of course, held them to a 4-4 draw in the Kirk Cup pool phase and then took them to a shoot-out in the Boxing Day decider at Stormont, so the third encounter of the season is expected to be a close one too.

Kilkeel are aware that most of Mossley's goals come from Jordan Robinson who is already on 22 this season whereas the goals are shared around by the Mourne side, so there is no significant player that needs marking.

Current leaders Bangor go to Queen's on Saturday hoping to maintain their recent fine form while second placed Instonians visit North Down this evening and are keen to bounce back after their setback at Bangor last week.

Saturday also sees the Irish Hockey Challenge quarter-finals, with Ulster's three remaining representatives - Ballynahinch, Armagh and Cliftonville - all on the road.

It's also the Irish Junior Cup quarter-finals with two all-Ulster ties involving Instonians II and North Down II and Kilkeel II and Banbridge II while Lisnagarvey II are off to Dublin to face Pembroke II.

Once again, there is no Irish Hockey League programme, due to the international team's involvement in the Five Nations series in Spain.

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