First half Irish blitz downs Wales

Men’s International Challenge match (Belfield)
Ireland 3 (Andy McConnell, Peter Blakeney, Peter Caruth) Wales 2 (Ben Croxall, Joe Naughalty)

A patchy Irish performance from an inexperienced side yielded a 3-2 win at Belfield last night as first half goals from Andy McConnell, Peter Blakeney and Peter Caruth made the difference.

Wales pulled back two goals back in the second half and had a trio of penalty corners but found Dave Fitzgerald in decent form to hold on for a decent win in which Richard Sykes made his debut.

It was very much an experimental side, named late as Paul Revington looks to try out as many options in his panel as possible. Johnny Jackson was the sole player with over 50 caps while six of the squad had less than three caps to their name – an average of 15.25 caps per man.

Skipper for the night for the first time, Andy McConnell opened the scoring on 24 seconds, scrambling home from all of two inches after Peter Caruth’s cross bobbled around in front of the Welsh goal.

A quiet patch ensued before Peter Blakeney doubled the lead two minutes before the break with a simple, low drag-flick and Peter Caruth made it 3-0 soon after.

John Jackson’s superbly disguised sweep pass found the Annadale man unmarked in the circle and he pumped the ball through Iwan Williams’ defences.

A game characterised by turnovers, Wales came back strong in the second half while David Ames and Alan Giles led the Irish charge going forward. Rick Gay was superb at the back for the Belfield visitors, three times extending a long stick to deny Irish one-on-one chances but it was his side who took the initiative in the second period.

Close range efforts from Ben Croxall and Joe Naughalty, the latter coming in the 57th minute, made it a tight affair but Ireland finished strong with Davy Carson spurning two good chances which could have copper-fastened the win.

Despite the sketchy second half, assistant coach Arul Anthoni took the positives from the game: “Winning a capped match is always important and it gives us an extra boost and we’ll take this confidence into the next games.

“It’s a younger side, there are only four of the side who are regulars so it will put pressure on the established players as we build a bigger pool of quality players.”

Ireland: David Fitzgerald, Gareth Watkins, David Ames, Alan Giles, Peter Blakeney, Michael Maguire, Peter Caruth, John Jackson, Andy McConnell, Ronan Flannery, Paul Gleghorne
Subs: Johnny Bruton, Kenny Carroll, Richard Sykes, Jason Lynch, Davy Carson
Wales: Iwan Williams, Jonny Gordon, Peter Swainson, Ben Croxall, Joe Naughalty, Lewis Prosser, Andy Cornick, Rick Gay, Gareth Furlong, Rufus McNaught-Barrington
Subs: Matt Ruxton, Chris Bowen, Rhys Gowman, Mike Shaw, Ben Edge

Schedule (both at Belfield):
Saturday, June 11:
Ireland v Wales, 4pm; Sunday, June 12: Ireland v Wales, 2pm

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