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Irish pay penalty for defensive frailties

 

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland's inability to defend penalty corners cost them dearly again as Olympic champions Argentina inflicted a second defeat on them at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

Craig Fulton's lads conceded two from set pieces in Saturday's 4-1 reverse against the hosts and a further three as well as a penalty stroke in yesterday's 5-3 defeat against the World No.2 ranked side.

But there were many other aspects to yesterday's game which pleased the coach, including his side's ability to score three times against a side that they have only ever beaten once in their history.

In fact the Irish were two up against the Olympic gold medallists before three goals in a three minute spell turned the game on its head.

The inspiration behind Argentina's win was unquestionably Gonzolo Peillat, recognised as the world's most prolific striker and who chalked up a hat-trick of penalty corner drag flick goals for the second successive day.

It started so well for the Irish with Lisnagarvey's Sean Murray producing the spadework from which Shane O'Donoghue opening the scoring from close range in the 11th minute.

And then Murray produced another piece of magic to make it 2-0 when he took a quick free and forced his way into the circle before unleashing a shot on his reverse which flew into the roof of the net.

But the Irish defence hasn't been as solid in the absence of the Harte twins, goalkeeper David and defender Conor, and all the good work was undone in three horrific minutes.

Peillat put away his first penalty corner past Mark Ingram, Luca Vila swept home a second and Peillat powered another penalty corner home to make it 3-2 for the Argentines.

Another Peillat set piece produced a penalty stroke when his corner was stopped by a foot on the line and this time Juan Gilardi converted to leave a half-time scoreline that hardly did the Irish justice.

But it merely underlines that at this high level, there can be no room for complacency as you can be punished big time.

Peillat completed his hat-trick of penalty corners to make it 5-2 but the Irish battled on and after coming close twice.

Banbridge's Eugene Magee finally got his reward when he sent a screamer on his reverse past a bewildered Juan Vivaldi.

And when the Argentines were reduced to eight men - two on yellow cards and one on yellow - there was the opportunity to reduce the arrears further.

But despite pressure and two penalty corner awards, the Irish were unable to breach the rearguard.

Next up for the Green Machine is old rivals England tomorrow morning (8.00am UK time), a game in which the Gleghorne brothers, Paul and Mark, will face each other yet again.

The English, who have Ulsterman Ian Sloan as their captain, crashed 4-1 on Saturday to world champions Australia and then drew 1-1 with India yesterday.

Mark Gleghorne scored their equaliser from a late penalty stroke.

Yesterday's third game saw hosts Malaysia lose 3-1 to Australia who remain favourites for the title in what is the 27th edition of this series in Ipoh.

Meanwhile, all games north and south of the border were called off due to the bad weather.

That doesn't hit the EY Irish Hockey League too badly, as there were no games scheduled due to those international commitments.

And indeed there is no IHL programme this week either, as the Irish team doesn't return until after the completion of their tournament on March 10.

The two postponed Irish Hockey Trophy semi-finals, involving Bandon and Bangor, and Raphoe and Portrane, have been rearranged for Saturday, March 24.

Weather permitting, there will also be a full Ulster Premier League programme on Saturday, with three games in Division A and three games in Division B, with Instonians and Queen's the two teams sitting out the action in what is a top-seven and bottom-seven split.

Sultan Azlan Shah Cup (Ipoh, Malaysia):

Saturday: Malaysia 4 (R Rahim 3, T Tajuddin) Ireland 1 (K Shimmins); England 1 (P Roper) Australia 4 (D Wotherspoon, B Govers, A Kleinschmidt, L Sharp); Argentina 3 (G Peillat 3) India 2 (A Rhohidas)

Yesterday: Ireland 3 (S O'Donoghue, S Murray, E Magee) Argentina 5 (G Peillat 3, L Vila, J Gilardi); England 1 (M Gleghorne) India 1 (S Lakra); Malaysia 1 (J Marhan) Australia 3 (C Weyer, D Wotherspoon, A Kleinschmidt)

Tomorrow: Ireland v England (8am); India v Australia (10am); Malaysia v Argentina (12.30am).

Belfast Telegraph

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