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Ireland receive boost ahead of Tokyo bid

Ireland 2 USA 0

New dimension: Katie Mullan
New dimension: Katie Mullan

By John Flack

Ireland's men continued their Olympic qualifying tournament build up by completing a series win over the United States yesterday when they defeated the United States 2-0 in Dublin.

Shane O'Donoghue and Luke Madeley hit the goals in the first half as Ireland followed up Friday's 5-0 victory to emerge comfortable winners, although goalkeeper Jamie Carr had to make a few smart saves.

O'Donoghue fired in the opener after 12 minutes when his penalty corner flew high into the net and then, five minutes later, Madeley doubled the lead in similar fashion.

Play became scrappy in the second half in which there were few chances, O'Donoghue going closest for the hosts when his set-piece flashed narrowly wide.

Lisnagarvey defender Jonny Bell, one of nine Ulster men in the squad for next month's Olympic qualifier in Le Touquet, was pleased with the performance.

He said: 'The States are quite a decent side, so we were happy with the two wins and we are gelling together nicely, helped by the fact the squad for Le Touquet was named early so there are no nerves about selection issues."

Next up for the men is two internationals against France at Lisnagarvey on June 4 and 6.

Meanwhile, Ireland women's captain Katie Mullan believes new head coach Sean Dancer will bring an extra dimension to the squad's playing style as the national team aim to build on their World Cup heroics by reaching the Tokyo Olympics.

Dancer will shortly take over the role as Graham Shaw's successor after the pair swapped places when the Dubliner moved to New Zealand.

In the meantime, former Ards coach Gareth Grundie is in the hot seat, having been promoted from assistant to interim head coach until after the first stage of the Olympic qualifying process which starts in Banbridge next weekend.

Dancer has already pledged to stamp his own style on the national team when he takes charge and will focus on improving Ireland's attacking play.

That will complement the largely defensive approach that Shaw adopted so successfully at last year's World Cup when Ireland surpassed even their own expectations by taking home the silver medal.

Mullan said: "Sean brings a wealth of experience at international level and while we continue to build on what we have, I also think he will bring something new to keep us progressing.

"We will, of course, still concentrate on our strong base in the defence which has proved successful in the past.

"Then, moving forward, the aim will be to try and improve our attacking play and get more outcomes in the circle."

Ireland continue their build up to the Banbridge tournament tomorrow in Dublin when they face the Indian Under-21 team.

The Irish training panel has been trimmed from 32 to 24 with six more players to drop out before the squad for Banbridge is announced at the end of the week.

Chloe Brown (East Grinstead) and Bethany Barr (UCD) are among the Ulster players who have been retained but they remain an outside bet to make the cut although two reserves will also be named.

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