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Irish lose but set sights on China

Ireland 2-4 Malaysia

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland men were brought back to earth with a bang following their fine 2-2 draw with Great Britain earlier in the week when they crashed 4-2 in their second pool game at the World League 3 series in Antwerp.

The Asian side are ranked a few places above the Irish on the world ladder but there was optimism in the Green Machine camp that they could produce a positive result to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Rio Olympics.

But they were always behind and the defeat means they must draw or preferably beat China today (1pm) if they are to avoid bottom place and ultimate elimination from the Olympic qualification process.

It now looks like Craig Fulton's lads may have to settle for fourth place in their pool - and it almost certainly means a very difficult crossover quarter-final against world giants Australia.

It was the Malaysian ability to put away penalty corners that swung the game their way, with three conversions from set pieces.

They took the lead in the 13th minute from Ahmad Jajuddin but within a minute Ireland struck the woodwork before Ulsterman Peter Caruth got on the end of Mitch Darling's cross on the reverse to level matters.

The Asian side regained their lead one minute into the second quarter and again it came from a penalty corner, this time from their talisman Razie Rahim.

But the Irish bounced back a second time and it was Shane O'Donoghue's turn to put away a penalty corner.

However, Sukir Mutalib converted a penalty corner and as they pressed home their advantage, they won a penalty stroke only to see it saved by goalkeeper David Harte.

David's twin brother Conor was winning his 150th cap but there was to be no celebration as Malaysia completed their win when Ahmed Tajuddin scored from open play towards the end of the contest.

It's now crucial they beat China to secure a quarter-final spot ... even if it is likely to be world kingpins Australia.

Meanwhile, Ulsterman Mark Gleghorne struck twice - one from open play and another from a penalty corner - as Great Britain crushed China 8-1 to move ahead of Belgium and Malaysia at the top of the pool table.

IRELAND: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, C Harte, P Gleghorne, K Shimmins, E Magee, S O'Donoghue, M Darling, P Caruth, K Good. Subs: D Fitzgerald, J Bell, D Carlisle, M Watt, S Dowds, A Sothern, C Cargo

Results: Pool A: Ireland 2 Malaysia 4; Great Britain 8 China 1

Today's programme: Pool A: India v Pakistan, Australia v Poland. Pool B: Ireland v China (1pm), Malaysia v Belgium.

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