Ireland beat Korea to secure Olympic play-off place
Ireland have beaten Korea 4-2 in France to reach the final of the FIH International Series and secure a place in the Olympic play-offs.
The opening quarter of the match saw few chances for either team, with little separating the sides in the heat.
Byungjin Jeon put Korea on the scoreboard in the 25th minute from a penalty corner, giving them the lead. However, a touch from Sean Murray provided just enough of an opportunity for Matthew Nelson to tap the ball into the goal ahead of half-time.
The Green Machine seemed to come back to the pitch with a renewed energy putting another two goals away in quick succession, making it three goals from three minutes of game time.
A clear increase in Ireland’s control of the game saw Daragh Walsh supply a lovely pass to Ben Walker who then managed to feed the ball perfectly to Eugene Magee to send it home and put Ireland in the lead.
Eugene Magee was on hand again shortly afterwards to provide Shane O’Donoghue the opportunity to further extend his international goal scoring record making the score 3-1 in Ireland’s favour. However, a penalty corner goal by Seungil Lee saw Korea close the gap slightly before the end of the third quarter.
The final quarter held a few missed opportunities for Ireland, with shots from both John Jackson and Shane O’Donoghue going wide of the goal. Tensions rose in the final five minutes of play when earlier Korean goal scorer Byungjin Jeon ran down the left of the pitch towards the Irish circle.
Paul Gleghorne’s defence resulted in him receiving a yellow card and Korea being awarded a penalty corner. Failing to convert the penalty corner to a goal, Korea removed goalkeeper Jaehyeon Kim shortly afterwards making it 11 outfield players against 9.
Ireland played strong defensively in the closing minutes of the game managing to move the ball back up the pitch in the final 30seconds of play. Neal Glassey had a short almost unchallenged run to put the ball into an empty Korean goal with the majority of Korean players remaining in the Irish half of the pitch, making the full-time score 4-2 to Ireland.
Ireland head coach Alexander Cox said: “I’m massively proud of the work ethic of the team, especially the way we managed to grind out a win today.
"I also saw some very good hockey in stages, particularly in the third quarter, with three goals in three minutes of play giving us a good lead.
"This is a massive step for us securing the qualifier in the Autumn. This was our aim coming here and we’ve achieved it against a tough and strong Korea. Now we wait to see who we will face in the final tomorrow evening.”
Ireland will play either Scotland or France in the final on Sunday at 5pm.
Belfast Telegraph Digital