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Fulton has a fancy for a repeat invite


By Graham Hamilton

Ireland coach Craig Fulton was not in the least downbeat after his team finished bottom in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup series in Malaysia - indeed he would love to get a repeat invite for next season.

Five defeats from six games, illness and injury ravaging his squad on the final day, and playing games in searing heat and soaring humidity with temperatures close to 40 degrees hasn't put him off at all.

In fact he insists the experience will help a lot, particularly with the younger players, as they continue preparations for the World Cup finals in India where conditions are likely to mirror what persisted throughout the week in Ipoh.

Fulton had barely 13 fit outfield players for Saturday's fifth/sixth play-off against Asian champions India and the 4-1 defeat, coming just 24 hours after they had beaten them 3-2, was not unexpected as he had to do without talismen Eugene Magee and Sean Murray, as well as Stephen Cole when the trio took ill.

With striker Julian Dale already restricted, having had six stitches inserted in his hand, it left the remaining players with too much to do, having to suffer longer periods in the sun to contain an Indian team who felt more at the home in the conditions.

"It would be great if we are invited again next year - we would love to come back," he insisted.

"It is a fantastic high-quality series, very competitive and yet we scored in every game."

Falling ill in Asian countries is not uncommon, not only brought about by heat and humidity but sometimes food, but that is what the Irish are likely to encounter when they head off to India.

"Playing six games in eight days in such conditions has been a real test, but we have learnt some lessons and made progress ahead of the world finals.

"Against India in the play-off, we played with just 13, which wasn't part of the plan! What we wanted to do was restricted.

"But overall we did pretty well against some of the best nations in the world."

The Irish had beaten India 3-2 in their final round-robin game on Friday but that illness spoiled the chance of a Saturday repeat.

Varun Kumar put away two penalty corner drag-flicks, with Shilanand Lakra and Gurjant Singh both scoring from close range while Julian Dale pulled one back late on.

Overall the Irish performed well with a squad missing a handful of established regulars, but conceding around four a game didn't help their cause.

Meanwhile, Bangor are back on top of the Ulster Premier League after David McClune scored both goals in the 2-0 win at Belfast Harlequins, with Instonians pushed back to second.

Kilkeel remain third after David Finlay struck twice in the 4-1 win at Mossley.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (Ipoh, Malaysia): Final: Australia 2 (B Govers, L Sharp) England 1 (S Ward); Bronze play-off: Argentina 3 (I Ibarra, G Peillat, P Ibarra) Malaysia 2 (J van Huizen, F Saari); 5th/6th play-off: India 4 (V Karun 2, S Lakra, G Singh) Ireland 1 (J Dale).

EY Irish Hockey League: Three Rock Rovers 7 (L Madeley 3, H Morris, P Blakeney, J Mullins, J Hoskings) Railway Union 3 (E MacArthur, M English)

Ulster Premier League: Belfast Harlequins 0 Bangor 2 (D McClune 2); Mossley 1 (J Robinson) Kilkeel 4 (D Finlay 2, E Agnew, L Russell); Portadown 1 (J Curran) South Antrim 1 (A Glass); Cliftonville 1 (J Allen) Newry Olympic 3 (C Henning 2, J Greer); North Down 4 (J Gilmore, R Linter, P Templeton, J Moore) Raphoe 2 (J Long, A Meehan); Antrim 2 (S Clyde, J Roe) Civil Service 4 (S Armstrong, R Anderson, T Priestley, M Johnston)

Irish Junior Cup semi-final: Pembroke II 4 (P Brownlow 2, S Furlong, G Sarratt)

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