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Nelson returns but Irish fall to defeat


Star man: Goalscorer John Jackson sets up another attack
Star man: Goalscorer John Jackson sets up another attack

By Graham Hamilton

Lisnagarvey's Matthew Nelson has returned to the Ireland squad but, like many of his fellow forwards, lacked the sharpness needed as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat in their second pool game against Egypt in the FIH Series being staged in France.

Nelson was an absentee as the Irish beat Scotland 4-2 on Saturday but was back in the frame for Egypt yesterday.

However, the shock reverse means the chances of topping their pool and going straight into the semi-finals are now remote and it looks like they'll be heading for a crossover quarter-final as they try to keep alive their chances of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics final eliminator.

The Garvey striker, one of nine Ulstermen in the Irish squad, was excused the opening game for a good reason - he was at brother Daniel's wedding.

But head coach Alexander Cox threw Nelson straight into action on his return to add more options but the outcome was that despite having 56% of possession, they only managed six shots on goals from 15 entries.

Having already beaten Singapore 3-0, a draw against Scotland tomorrow will give Egypt a semi-final place and Ireland will probably end up with a crossover quarter-final against Chile, assuming they will comfortably beat Singapore tomorrow.

A win over Egypt seemed likely when John Jackson deflected in Shane O'Donoghue's reverse shot after a penalty corner broke down. But Mohamed Adel levelled from a penalty corner and 13 minutes from time they managed to snatch the winner through Ahmed Elhakim.

Saturday's win over Scotland was equally hard-fought, but Eugene Magee's double strike, added to goals from O'Donoghue and Robson, ensured a 4-2 success.

"We didn't show up in the first half against Egypt and that can't happen," said coach Cox. "We improved in the second half and tried everything to break them.

"We're massively disappointed but we mustn't forget that we can still meet our objectives."

Saturday: Pool A: Ireland 4 (E Magee 2, S O'Donoghue, M Robson) Scotland 2 (D Riddle, K Bain); Egypt 3 Singapore 0. Pool B: Korea 3 Chile 1; France 9 Ukraine 1

Yesterday: Pool A: Scotland 5 Singapore 0; Egypt 2 (M Adel, A Elhakim) Ireland 1 (J Jackson). Pool B: Ukraine 2 Chile 2; Korea 1 France 1

Today: Rest day

Tomorrow: Pool A: Ireland v Singapore (2.45pm); Egypt v Scotland (12.30pm). Pool B: Ukraine v Korea (10.15am); France v Chile (5pm)

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