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Nelson has stomach for China showdown

 

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland's young guns are relishing the tremendous atmosphere at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, and none more so than Lisnagarvey striker Matthew Nelson.

Coach Alexander Cox and manager Gareth Kidd were a little worried about how the less experienced players would cope with the noise generated by a capacity 15,000 crowd at the World Cup finals venue, and also with the problems eating unaccustomed food in the India city.

But they have taken it all in their stride and showed no signs of fear as they put in a strong performance against world champions Australia in their opening game.

That 2-1 defeat was back on Friday and the Green Machine are chomping at the bit to get back out on the pitch and hopefully chalk up their first pool win when they take on China tomorrow afternoon (1.30pm).

Nelson was praised for his brave and tireless performance against the World No.1, not only for his work upfront alongside Banbridge's Eugene Magee, but also battling back to help out the midfield and defence, as well as being the first runner to combat Australia's penalty corners.

Before the game he was presented with his 50th international cap by fellow Garvey player Jonathan Bell - both Wallace High former pupils.

And he's counting the minutes until the game against China, which many see as a must-win if the Irish are to avoid finishing bottom in their pool and thus suffer early elimination.

"I am very privileged to become the youngest Irish player to reach the 50 cap milestone, and getting to do it here in India in this awesome atmosphere.

"It is something special to play in front of such passionate fans.

"We gave a good account of ourselves against Australia and we aim to come back stronger against China."

Over the weekend India and Belgium drew 2-2 in Pool C to stay joint top while Netherlands sent out a warning when they crushed Malaysia 7-0 in Pool D, although Germany only squeezed through 1-0 against Pakistan.

Meanwhile Ryan Burgess struck twice in the final five minutes to complete a hat-trick and give Annadale a welcome 3-2 success at Cork of I in the EY Irish Hockey League on Saturday.

And William Robinson got a double as Instonians inflicted a 4-2 defeat on Kilkeel in the IHL's second tier, although Bangor crashed to a 8-3 defeat to UCD.

Chris Henry's treble helped South Antrim to a 4-1 win over Queen's while Portadown edged through 2-1 at Civil Service.

But Newry Olympic's 3-2 success over leaders Mossley on Friday was the major talking point.

Finally, the New Year's Day Linden Cup final will be between Antrim and Ballynahinch following yesterday's semi-finals at Deramore.

Antrim eased through on a 4-1 scoreline against CI while Ballynahinch recorded the same scoreline in the second semi-final against Ballymena.

World Cup finals: Pool D: Netherlands 7 (J Hertzberger 3,  Pruijser, M van der Meerden, R Kemperman, T Brinkman) Malaysia 0; Germany 1 (M Miltkau) Pakistan 0

Pool C: Canada 1 (S Tupper) South Africa 1 (N Ntuli); India 2 (H Singh, S Singh) Belgium 2 (A Hendrickx, S Gougnard).

EY Irish Hockey League: Cork C of I 2 (D Lynch, J Jermyn) Annadale 3 (R Burgess 3)

IHL2: Kilkeel 2 (G Russell, J Aiken) Instonians 4 (W Robinson 2, G Leckey, S Kelso); Railway Union 2 (S McKeever, A Colton) Bandon 2 (D Smith, C Kingston); UCD 8 (D Nolan 3, M Samuel, E Ramsey, A Tutty, P Lynch, I Styles) Bangor 3 (D McClune 2, M Willis); UCC 1 (B Stockil) Corinthian 4 (I Stewart 2, D Treacy 2).

Ulster Premier League: Newry Olympic 3 (J Taylor 2, K Fletcher) Mossley 2 (A Monaghan, J Robinson); Civil Service 1 Portadown 2 (S Bell, R Bennett); South Antrim 4 (C Henry 3, A Glass) Queen's 1 (J Hermon).

Linden Cup semi-finals: Antrim 4 (A Murtland, J McMeekin, R Watt, A McBride) CI I (N McKimm); Ballymena 1 (A Larmour) Ballynahinch 4 (W Edgar, A McIlwaine, J Campbell, S Hunter).

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