Irish aim to learn from World Cup heartbreak
Shane O'Donoghue became Ireland's all-time record goalscorer at the World Cup finals in India yesterday but sadly there was little else to celebrate as the Green Machine made their exit from the competition.
Alexander Cox's lads needed a draw against old rivals England in the final Pool B game in Bhubaneswar but despite giving it a real go, they lost on a 4-2 scoreline which was slightly flattering for the opposition.
In the end it was their failure to convert all their possession against China last week which came back to haunt them, and it's sickening to see that the Asian side go into the crossovers after a 11-0 mauling against world champions Australia, the team that the Irish only lost to 2-1.
That, though, is the nature of the sport, and the management and players will feel that all the effort and preparation that went into getting to the world stage for the first time in 28 years was well worth it, as they never looked out of their depth in any of the three pool games.
Naturally there was major disappointment that they didn't achieve their first target of reaching the play-offs to be able to build on the Irish women's silver medal success at their World finals.
Yes, the dream may be over, but for the players it was better to have lived the dream than not to have been involved at all.
"This is painful, you never get used to losing," said coach Cox. "I wasn't happy with the first quarter as we were on the back-foot but in the second half we turned it around and gave it our all.
"In every game this tournament we had an opportunity to get a result but we weren't clinical enough.
"I'm proud of the players, though, and how they conducted themselves. We'll just have to make sure the next time we are on the other end of the result."
Twice England took the lead and twice the Irish hit back but England got the crucial third goal and then a fourth with the last touch of the game, a penalty corner conversion.
This came as the Irish had no keeper to defend the award as they had substituted David Harte for an extra outfield player in a desperate attempt to force an equaliser.
That goal came from Mark Gleghorne, one of three Ulstermen who previously played for Ireland but are now regulars in the English line-up.
England's opening goal came just seconds before the end of the first quarter, with David Condon the marksman, although it seemed umpires missed a foul in the build-up.
Ian Sloan fired over the crossbar when well placed as England held a slight edge up to half-time but then the game came to life with four goals in the space of four minutes.
Ireland's equaliser came from Ulsterman Chris Cargo who got the final touch after good work from Sean Murray and O'Donoghue in the 35th minute, but England quickly restored their lead when a Liam Ansell tomahawk flashed past Harte.
Back came the Irish and O'Donoghue levelled the match again within 60 seconds from a penalty corner to take his international goals tally to 93, one ahead of previous leader John Jermyn.
But again England responded promptly and James Gall got a deflection to make it 3-2.
The Irish tried hard to square matters again but Alan Sothern had a penalty corner well saved by England goalkeeper George Pinner, with Cargo's snatched effort from the rebound going over the crossbar.
With four minutes left, Cox took off his keeper but with only four seconds remaining on the clock England won a penalty corner and it was easy for Gleghorne to convert it with no keeper there to make a save.
And so England go through as pool runners-up and will face New Zealand in the play-offs on Monday, as will the two lowest ranked teams in the tournament, France and China.
World Cup finals (India): Pool B: Australia 11 (B Govers 3, T Brand 2, A Zalewski, T Craig, J Hayward, J Whetton, D Wotherspoon, F Ogilvie) China 0; Ireland 2 (C Cargo, S O'Donoghue) England 4 (D Condon, L Ansell, J Gall, M Gleghorne).
Today: Pool C: Belgium v South Africa (11.30am); Canada v India (1.30pm).
Tomorrow: Pool D: Malaysia v Germany (11.30am); Netherlands v Pakistan (1.30pm).