FIH Champions Challenge: Ireland 6 (P Caruth 2, G Watkins, C Harte, J Brennan, C Cargo) USA 2 (T Sundeen, P Harris)
Just two places separate Ireland and the US in the world rankings but the boys in green, despite not truly hitting the high notes, showed a gulf in class exists between the pair as they swept into a 5-0 lead.
In a scruffy close to the tie, the USA scored from a pair of corners before Peter Caruth, outstanding on the day, capped the performance with a sixth effort, earning a second date with Russia who won their quarter-final with a thumping 9-1 win over the Czech Republic.
On a much cooler, overcast day, Ireland got off to the perfect start, Conor Harte dragging home his second penalty corner of the tournament in the fourth minute.
It seemed to set Ireland on their way, an enveloping press providing plenty of quality ball for Gareth Watkins, Mikey Watt and Peter Blakeney to surge forward.
But after the initial blitz came a lull and the US stepped into the breach, winning a corner while Will Holt should have levelled but he dallied, allowing John Jackson to cover and block on the goal-line.
David Harte had also twice been called into action before Ireland regained a foothold and penned the Americans in their own territory. The overlapping full-backs, notably Paul Gleghorne, were popping up to add extra impetus and it drew a reward in dying seconds of the half.
With precious few seconds remaining, Joe Brennan flung in a pass into the heart of the circle where Gareth Watkins who, despite the short time, kept his nerve to crash home for 2-0. It was powerful blow to the US confidence and Ireland came out rejuvenated in the second period.
From a corner gone wrong, Brennan made it 3-0 in the 42nd minute as Conor Harte retrieved the ball on the right edge and swept the ball across to the injector’s position and the Glenanne man snagged his first international goal.
Within 60 seconds, the bar was rattled by David Ames but the very next attack was worked to Caruth close in and he swivelled on his reverse and cracked it home.
Jarred Martin was another American to miss a glaring chance, getting the better of Harte only to roll the ball timidly into the side-netting. His profligacy was further punished when Chris Cargo guided home for 5-0 in the 53rd minute.
Watkins’ persistence created the opportunity, driving through a couple of tackles. His hit came from inches outside of the circle and may have seen a couple of US defenders let up their pursuit but Cargo nipped in to snatch the opportunity as shin-height.
It preluded a let-up of sorts and a pair of corners were converted. First up, 17 year-old Tyler Sundeen slid in to finish off a third phase scramble while Patrick Harris took the direct route 90 seconds later for 5-2.
But a fine move between Watt and Jackson down the right-wing created the chance for Caruth to unleash some serious venom, smashing home off Tom Sheridan’s unguarded elbow.
Speaking about the result, Paul Revington said there is still plenty to work on for the side ahead of Saturday’s rematch with Russia.
“It wasn’t as polished as it might have been. We were disappointed to concede the two goals but I think they might have been frustrated not to score more. It was a little bit scratchy but we scored six goals and it was enough to get us into the semi-final.
“We arrived [to see Russia against the Czechs] when it was already six but the main Czech goalkeeper [Fillip Neusser] wasn’t playing. The scoreline may flatter them a little bit. I was a little bit disappointed with our performance as well on Tuesday, it was ok but wasn’t so good that it set the world alight. That we’ve played them and had an opportunity to see them is not a bad thing but there has to be more to come from us.”
** Pictures from the day’s games can be found on The Hook’s Facebook page
** Full reports from each of the other three quarter-finals can be found here; for more information on the tournament, go to the FIH’s official tournament website to which The Hook has been providing words each day
FIH Champions Challenge, quarter-final results: Russia 9 (A Platonov 2, N Komarov 2, N Yankun, R Zakirov, P Golubev, I Larikov, A Zhirkov) Czech Republic 1 (T Prochazka); France 2 (L Sevestre, A Becuwe) Austria 2 (M Grandits, A Bele), France won 3-2 on penalties; Scotland 2 (D Coultas, W Marshall) China 1 (Y Liu); Ireland 6 (P Caruth 2, G Watkins, C Harte, J Brennan, C Cargo) USA 2 (T Sundeen, P Harris)
Saturday’s semi-final draw (all Irish times): France vs Scotland, 1pm; Ireland vs Russia, 3.30pm