Selection issues abound after Argentine loss

Men’s Senior International challenge match: Ireland 1 (J Jermyn) Argentina 4 (P Ibarra 2, I Bergner, T Argento Innocente)
How the weekend’s results and performances affect Paul Revington’s final selection for the European Championships was the main question at the end of today’s second tie between Argentina and Ireland.

The Irish coach made six changes to Saturday’s 16 with Phelie Maguire, Gareth Watkins, Peter Blakeney and Stu Loughrey given the chance to stake their claim a ticket to Monchengladbach while Geoff McCabe and Dave Fitzgerald also came in.

Of the other hopefuls, Chris Cargo and Joe Brennan stayed in the panel while Alan Sothern and Bruce McCandless stepped out. It was a special day, too, for David Ames and Andy McConnell who both reached the 50 cap mark on the day.

Contrary to the scoreline, coach Paul Revington can take a lot more positives from this performance than Saturday’s 3-2 setback, creating more chances and putting together some superb passages of first half play, working the ball at razor-sharp pace from front to back.

He admitted as much when speaking afterwards: “I don’t think the scoreline correctly represents the strength of our game today, while we are disappointed with one defensive error out of the four goals, we are more disappointed with the fact that we did not score from more of our chances during the game. The summer has been characterised by us scoring in those phases and that is where our frustration lies from today.”

Argentina, though, are a tidy outfit and, with Lucas Vila pulling the strings, produced some sharp moves which caught Ireland cold on occasion and they were the better side, if not by the final three-goal margin.

Left-back Juan Lopez was the first to go close in the ninth minute, his behind the back deflection flirting close to Dave Fitzgerald’s goal-line before drifting wide.

The Monkstown man did brilliantly did pull off a double save from Ignacio Bergner’s drag-flick and Manuel Brunet’s follow-up from Argentina’s first corner of the weekend before Ireland hit their straps.

In a four-minute period leading up to John Jermyn’s goal they produced a string of great interchanges, Maguire showing some sweet touches and he set in motion the opener.

Drifting left, he laid up for Gareth Watkins who miscued his shot but Geoff McCabe nicked in, flipping the ball over Juan Espinosa and Jermyn had the simplest of tasks.

They were good value for that lead but a softly conceded corner, Vila’s reverse-stick cross bouncing onto a foot, opened the door for Pedro Ibarra to level in the 27th minute, a tame enough drag-flick finding its way in.

Ireland were denied the opportunity to make it 2-1 just before the break when Jermyn’s cross was set to be turned in only for the shin-high pass to deemed dangerous but Ireland carried a level of momentum into the second period.

Watkins and Jackson both had pot-shots denied while Maguire, again, turned a couple of defenders and set Jermyn free on his own on the right of the circle. His cross fizzed across goal unimpeded.

Ian Sloan, meanwhile, was becoming a major influence, his sublime stick skills leaving players for dead on regular occasions. The final pass was not forthcoming today but when that comes, the teenager will create umpteen chances for others.

Nonetheless, Argentina were in front in the 50th minute from a lightning quick left-wing move. Vila found Lucas Rossi whose shot bounced over Fitzgerald and Tomas Argento Innocente was on hand to mop up the scraps.

It continued to be a very even affair but Argentina had the cutting edge, winning the corners which Ireland were unable to glean. Agustin Mazilli – a team mate of Maguire’s in Leuven – won the killer set-piece 12 minutes from time which Ibarra placed excellently.

Watkins cracked the side of the goal in response though McConnell might have been an option at the back post. Again, Ireland were caught on the counter seven minutes from time as Mazzilli raced down the right and was taken down in his shooting stride by Conor Harte, yielding a penalty stroke which Ignacio Bergner converted.

A few late Sloan bursts, an Andy McConnell bash and a few loud Irish shouts for penalty corners ended a lively encounter with Argentina comfortable, if slightly flattering, victors.

The players on the brink of the squad will now wait until Monday to be told whether they have been included in the final panel for Europe.

Ireland: D Fitzgerald, J Jackson, G McCabe, R Gormley, J Brennan, A McConnell, P Blakeney, P Maguire, G Watkins, D Ames, S Loughrey
Subs: C Cargo, J Jermyn, I Sloan, T Cockram, C Harte

Argentina: Espinosa, Bergner, M Vila, L Rey, Paredes, L Vila, Zylberberg, Lopez, Brunet, Mazzilli, Rossi
Subs: P Ibarra, R Vila, L Cammareri, S Monelli, T Innocente

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