Irish almost scupper comfortable Scots win

FIH Champions Challenge II
Ireland 3 (Alan Giles, Geoff McCabe, Conor Harte) Scotland 2 (Gavin Byers, Alan Forsyth)

Ireland got off to a winning start to the FIH Champions Challenge II in Lille this afternoon but it was a far nervier affair than it should have been as two goals around the hour mark gave Scotland late hope.

Conor Harte’s corner goal had catapulted the boys in green into a 3-0 just a couple of minutes into the second period after early strikes from Alan Giles and Geoff McCabe.

But Gavin Byers’ neat corner rebound and an Alan Forsyth deflection deceived David Harte to make it a tight finish to what was a stagnant second half up to that point.

It left coach Paul Revington frustrated as a fine start was almost undone. High pressing was the order of the day, directly leading to two of the goals in jig-time.

Mark Fulton had already been drawn into three saves as Mikey Watt, Peter Blakeney and Peter Caruth all shot on target.
Watkins drifted a lob just over but the goal came via Johnny Jackson’s surging run from left-back and flipping the ball goalward; Fulton’s save bounced up but Giles reacted neatly to volley in high.

Three minutes later, Geoff McCabe netted his first international goal in well over 80 matches. The Scottish sweeper miscued a hit-out straight to Mikey Watt who simply laid into McCabe’s path and he picked off the bottom corner.

Ames picked off the next defensive lapse soon after the interval to set up Harte’s corner drag and make the game look safe.

Indeed, the tie fell into quite a lull, played at a low pace with not much quality to it. Scotland got their lifeline from an innocuous incident, Joe Brennan pinged for not retreating five metres and Byers snaffled the second phase.

Two minutes later, a crash ball took a touch from Forsyth and while it was within David Harte’s reach, it bounced over his left leg and into the corner.

It upped the ante as Peter Blakeney, Gareth Hall and Ronan Gormley were all binned in the closing stages but Ireland held out for the three points

France, meanwhile, top the group over the night on goal difference following their nine-goal thriller against Russia. They recovered from 3-1 down with their corner routine looking particularly effective, netting three from three. Fabien Magner and Yannick Schambert were on the mark from those efforts while Olivier Sanchez and Jean-Beptiste Pauchet netted from play.

Earlier on, Glenanne man Filip Jaros helped the Czech Republic come from a goal down to beat the USA 3-2. China, meanwhile, edged past Austria 2-1 in Group A.

Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, G McCabe, R Gormley, M Watt, J Brennan, E Magee, P Caruth, P Blakeney, D Ames, C Harte
Subs: C Cargo, A Giles, A McConnell, G Watkins, P Gleghorne

FIH Champions Challenge II
Group A results:
USA 2 Czech Republic 3; China 2 Austria 1
Standings: 1. Czech Republic 3pts (+1) 2. China 3pts (+1) 3. USA 0pts (-1) 4. Austria 0pts (-1)
Group B results: Ireland 3 (Alan Giles, Geoff McCabe, Conor Harte) Scotland 2 (Gavin Byers, Alan Forsyth); France 5 (F Magner 2, J-B Pauchet, O Sanchez, Y Schambert) Russia 4 (R Zakirov 2, A Platonov , P Golubev)
Standings: 1. France 3pts (+1) 2. Ireland 3pts (+1) 3. Russia 0pts (-1) 4. Scotland 0pts (-1)

FIH Men’s Champions Challenge II – Lille, France, remaining group games
Sunday:
Ireland vs France, 4pm (GMT)
Tuesday: Ireland vs Russia, 3pm (GMT)

** Photos courtesy of Stanislas Brochier, for more from the tournament, click here

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