UCD 4 Nations Cup: Ireland 6 (John Jermyn 2, Mitch Darling 2, Timmy Cockram, Mikey Watt) France 1 (Jean-Baptiste Pauchet)
Barring a Friday night horror show against Pakistan, Ireland are virtually assured a place in Saturday’s final after a stunning 6-1 win over France in Belfield tonight.
Knowing Ireland have inflicted big wins over the French in recent times – notably an 8-2 success in Dublin two years ago as well as last Saturday’s 7-1 win over their second string – captain Ronan Gormley was not getting overly excited about the scoreline.
Indeed, with potential battles in the INSEP Five Nations, the Champions Challenge II and, most importantly, the European championships.
“You can’t read too much into that game, nor is it the European Cup. We wanted to go out to test ourselves and test them and see how they react and the result is a bonus.
David Ames was initially named as an inclusion but a back spasm late in the day saw him step out and Iain Walker taking his place on the bench with Ian Sloan the other player rested.
It took just 90 seconds to get off the mark, Chris Cargo picking out Mitch Darling whose first touch wrong-footed Matthias Dierckens and dribbled over the line.
France stepped up their game, holding sway in the middle stages of the half but David Harte was reasonably comfortable in clearing three limp efforts – the sum of the French attacking intent.
Their will appeared to be broken when Francois Scheefer howler opened the door for Ireland to punish their uncertain finishing. He miscontrolled, allowing Cargo to nip in, and the French skipper compounded his error by impeding the Reading man’s shot, resulting in a penalty stroke.
Cork man John Jermyn netted from the spot for 2-0, his 59th international goal, and number 60 came a minute later from Ireland’s first short corner.
And the goals continued to flow into the second half. Tim Cockram got a bizarre fourth, nut-megging Mathieu Dierckens after Mikey Watt’s diving deflection ballooned up in the air. Dierckens attempted to shepherd a spinning ball over the endline, it stopped in its tracks and Cockram flung a stick out and the ball squeezed through the hapless keeper’s feet and inched over the line.
Darling’s second was a classy finish, Cockram stealing the ball and feeding the striker who, with his back to goal, shimmied to his reverse and rolled behind Dierckens.
A right wing cross found Watt at the back post to tap in from a couple of inches for 6-0 in the 61st minute before Jean-Baptiste Pauchet got the consolation goal four minutes from time.
Ireland were happier with their performance between the 25s compared to Monday’s game but a few lessons could still be drawn, especially as France comprehensively won the corner count 5-1.
Comparing the two games, Gormley said: “Against China, we maybe didn’t play as well from 25 to 25 and defended the D a bit better and, attacking-wise, won a few more corners. Today we lost the corner count which is a stat the coaches always look at.
“But we were effective when we did get into the D. We had seven or eight entries in the first half and scored three goals but there is a little bit of improvement to do defensively.”
Looking forward to Friday’s tie with Pakistan, a more than likely potential fore-runner to the final a day later.
“As long we don’t get a big score against us against Pakistan. It shouldn’t happen but it’s good to get three points from both of the first two games,” Gormley concluded.
Ireland: D Harte, G McCabe, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, J Brennan, J Jermyn, M Darling, T Cockram, C Harte, S Loughrey
Subs: T Lewis, B McCandless, P Maguire, S O’Donoghue
France: M Dierckens, T Genestet, A Becuwe, F Magner, B Dierckens, Lucas Sevestre, Y Schambert, F Scheefer, J-B Pauchet, M Genestet, V Migneau
Subs: M Catonnet, Lois Sevestre, O Sanchez, S Wentworth, N Gagnard
China 2 (Z Sun, XLiu) Pakistan 3 (S Abbas, M Zubair, Haseem)
Pakistan bounced back from Monday’s setback against France to get right back in the mix for the UCD 4 Nations Cup final with China needing results to go their way to have any chance of reaching the decider. They got off to a decent start, Xianting Liu finding a route through Salman Akbar from close range in the sixth minute.
But Sohail Abbas returned to the team after Monday’s rest to fizz in a trademark drag from his side’s first corner and Haseem scrambled the ball over the line from Shakeel Abbasi’s smacked pass to the back post.
Zhixin Sun tied the game for the second time in the 32nd minute but the winner came early in the second half when Zubair finished off in from close range three minutes into the second half.
And while the chances were not especially clear in the latter stages, the large Pakistani support greeted the victory with raucous celebrations aided by the IHA bang bang sticks, creating an excellent atmosphere.
UCD 4 Nations Cup, group standings: 1. Ireland 6pts (+7) 2. Pakistan 3pts (-1) 3. France 3pts (-3) 4. China 0pts (-3)