Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Hockey

Ireland's reality check for Rio

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland's men are under no illusions as to how difficult it is going to be at the Rio Olympics as they crashed twice to World No. 5 Belgium at the tail-end of their warm-weather training camp in Cape Town.

Admittedly the games against the classy Belgians came at the end of an intense two week programme during which they played eight games in 11 days while still training daily, but Saturday's 6-2 defeat followed by yesterday's 6-3 defeat, underlined the magnitude of the task that lies ahead against professional outfits.

Coach Craig Fulton used the camp to go over tactics and try out various formations and indeed used the full 26-man squad throughout the eight games as he gave some of the rising stars the chance to show what they can do, and overall believes the trip was invaluable.

Results at this stage mean little, but the two defeats to Belgium and the other defeat, to Spain, reminds the players how hard it is to topple teams ranked higher on the world ladder.

There was good news that they didn't lose to the two teams ranked marginally below them, drawing with South Africa and beating Canada twice and drawing the two other games, but there is plenty to ponder as the party make the long journey home.

Yesterday the Irish were two down early on after fine strikes from Simon Cougnard and Tom Boon but an Alan Sothern penalty corner conversion and a great goal from Mitch Darling on the counter levelled matters.

But Sebastian Dockier and Florent van Aubel quickly made it 4-2 before Shane O'Donoghue's penalty corner kept the Green Machine in the frame.

The Belgians, however, finished stronger and Dockier and Boon wrapped up the 6-3 win.

On Saturday it took the Red lions just five minutes to score when Jeffrey Thys hammered home but a great run from Ulsterman John Jackson set up Stuart Loughrey to level matters.

However, Belgium led 3-1 at half-time after Tanguy Cosyns scored on the counter and Dockier rattled home on the reverse.

Back came the Irish with Kirk Shimmins to narrow the leeway but Belgium finished the stronger and Cougnard scored on the reverse, Felix Denayer from a penalty corner drag-flick, and van Aubel from another counter.

Meanwhile Stephen Kelso had the honour of scoring Instonians' 100th goal of the season as Steven Redpath's lads crushed Civil Service 6-1 at Stormont to make it 12 straight wins in the Ulster Premier League. Top scorer Kelso went on to complete a hat-trick and William Robinson contributed two with James Dowling getting the other.

Main rivals Kilkeel and Raphoe remain in contention for the provincial play-offs with wins over Mossley and North Down while Belfast Harlequins hauled themselves back into the frame by seeing off Portadown.

And Newry chalked up a 6-2 win at South Antrim where Colin McKnight scored a hat-trick.

In the Senior League table-toppers Bangor came from 3-1 down to force a 4-4 draw against one of their main rivals in Queen's, and once again top scorer Ryan Burgess bagged a brace, as did colleague David McClune.

INTERNATIONALS: Yesterday Belgium 6 Ireland 3 (A Sothern, M Darling, S O'Donoghue); Saturday: Belgium 6 Ireland 2 (S Loughrey, K Shimmins)

ULSTER PREMIER LEAGUE: Civil Service 1 (S Armgtrong) Instonians 6 (S Kelso 3, W Robinson 2, J Dowling); Raphoe 3 (L Witherow, W Kilpatrick, G Patterson) North Down 2 (T Donnan, G McKeown); Belfast Harlequins 2 (J Hutchinson, L McClelland) Portadown 0; Mossley 3 (J Robinson, J Barr, R McClintock) Kilkeel 5 (W Annett 2, E Agnew, A Niblock, G Russell); South Antrim 2 (M Getty, L Marshall) Newry 6 (C McKnight 3, A Foster, K McWilliams, D Andrews)

Senior League: Campbellians 7 (J Easlie 2, A Saunders 2, S Moore 2, C Bannister) Ballynahinch 1 (G Graham); Cliftonville 1 (A Cardy) Antrim 2 (S Mitchell, N McCullough); Bangor 4 (D McClune 2, R Burgess 2) Queen's 4 (P Watt, P Morrow, R Kelly, G Leckey)

Irish Junior Cup quarter-finals: Instonians II 2 Three Rock II 1; Glenanne II 8 South Antrim II 3; Lisnagarvey II 2 Cork C of I II 3; Monkstown II 3 Pembroke II 1

Nigel Cheevers Memorial Tournament: Cookstown 4 Lisnagarvey 3

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph