Men’s Senior International friendly: Ireland 4 (John Jermyn 2, Mitch Darling 2) Wales 1 (Rick Gay)
Fluidity was finally forthcoming for Paul Revington’s Ireland as they produced their best performance of the three-match series with Wales.
Indeed, it might have been more had the Irish opted to show some of their corner variations but with the Celtic Cup coming within a week, they opted for John Jermyn to drag all nine of their set-pieces.
Alan Giles and Peter Caruth came in for David Ames and Eugene Magee in the two changes to Saturday’s selection and Ireland started in bright fashion with Jermyn’s first drag blocked, Phelie Maguire inches away from touching in a cross and Peter Caruth seeing a reverse smothered.
Jermyn saw his third drag bunted to safety by post-man Rick Gay but the breakthrough came 40 seconds before the break with a low drag to David Kettle’s stick-side.
Raw power then doubled the difference as Jermyn ripped home the seventh corner, three coming in quick succession after the break.
Their pace on the attack was leaving the Welsh defence slightly ragged and feet were easier to find though clear-cut chances were still relatively rare.
Wales, though, responded quickly. Rhys Bowman’s reverse was well blocked by David Harte but the follow-up long corner saw Mark Whatling stick-checked when faced with a virtual open goal; Gay scored the impending stroke.
It was the trigger for Ireland to fully find their mojo. Darling gleefully swept home an insurance goal after superb approach play from Maguire, an interchange forged on fields of Three Rock and Leuven, as they one-two’d their way into the circle and past Kettle.
And Darling made it four on his reverse 45 seconds later following an intercepted long corner and Peter Caruth’s neat square pass.
Indeed, the Den Bosch man almost had a three minute hat-trick when Caruth turned and burned from halfway. His slip to Darling opened a shooting chance but he was clobbered before he could pull the trigger.
That corner was incomplete while a ninth effort smacked a post but 4-1 was probably an accurate enough reflection of the play.
Once again, assistant coach Arul Anthoni talked about the positives from the game: “I am very pleased with the big improvements made in the last two matches in terms of organising the defense and passing in the final third. We only conceded a corner and pressed hard throughout the game”.
Elsewhere, Ronan Gormley came up just short in his bid to become the first Irish player to win a EuroHockey League gold medal as Club de Campo – the Spanish club he joined this term – lost out 1-0 to HGC in The Hague.
Gormley was the fourth Irish medallist in the competition, the biggest club event in the world, following countrymen John Jermyn, Iain Lewers and Chris Cargo – a bronze winner with Reading earlier yesterday – but none have yet to taste overall glory.
He will rejoin the national setup during the week ahead of potentially taking part in either the Celtic Cup and the 4 Nations. The former panel is likely to be named on Monday.
Ireland: David Harte, John Jackson, Tim Lewis, Geoff McCabe, Joe Brennan, John Jermyn, Peter Caruth, Andy McConnell, Mitch Darling, Phelie Maguire, Conor Harte
Subs: Mikey Watt, Alan Giles, Ronan Flannery, Bruce McCandless, Timmy Cockram
Wales: David Kettle, Jonny Gordon, Chris Bowen, Joe Naughalty, Andy Cornick, Mark Whatling, Matt Ruxton, Rick Gay, Ian Hardigham, Rhys Gowman, Mike Shaw
Subs: Ben Croxall, Lewis Prosser, Gareth Furlong, Rufus McNaught-Barrington, Ben Edge