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New-look Irish are denied by last-gasp Spain winner

Ireland's men lost out to a last-minute Xavi Lleonart goal in Barcelona in the first of three games against Spain during their warm-weather training camp as part of the build-up towards the Rio Olympics.

Coach Craig Fulton rested many of his regulars in this trip in favour of some of the rising stars, and they gave a good account of themselves in a slender 3-2 defeat against a team ranked above them on the world ladder and who have also qualified for Rio.

The Green Machine actually took the lead when a well-worked move down the right set up striker Alan Sothern.

But Spain were ahead by the interval through a Josep Roneu drag-flick penalty corner in the 28th minute and an effort from David Alegre just 10 seconds before the break.

It was recalled striker Gareth Watkins who levelled for the Irish early in the second-half after Ronan Gormley's crossfield aerial pass picked out Banbridge's Matthew Bell in the circle.

Bell's silky skills drew two defenders and he squared the ball invitingly for Watkins to smash home.

Unfortunately, all the good work was wasted when Lleonart was at the back post to tap in just before the final hooter.

Altogether there are eight Ulstermen in the 20-man squad, including Banbridge's Bruce McCandless who was called up late to replace John Jackson.

But regulars like Eugene Magee, Paul Gleghorne, Leinster's Shane O'Donoghue and Mitch Darling and goalkeeper David Harte were all absentees.

The Irish take on their hosts again tomorrow (3pm) and Thursday (12pm) before returning home.

Belfast Telegraph


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