Ireland’s men completed their Olympic qualifier warm-up with two more comprehensive wins over the Czech Republic in Belfield.
Having won 7-2 with a mixed selection, a fuller panel put the visitors to the sword on Friday night with a resounding 9-0 win, enjoying the extra space afforded to them after their last ten internationals against sides ranked in the world’s top 11. Mitch Darling set the tone with a goal in the first minute and it was plain sailing from then on as Mikey Watt made it two just four minutes later.
Darling and Timmy Cockram added superb reverses for 4-0 at half-time and they continued the hammering in the second half as Darling completed his hat-trick and then nabbed a fourth, Geoff McCabe celebrated his 100th cap with the seventh of the evening. Munster men John Jermyn and Conor Harte rounded off the scoring from corners.
A day later, there was not quite as much cohesion in the final third but Ireland were dominant nonetheless as David Fitzgerald was not forced into a meaningful touch by the Czechs – a European A division opponent of Ireland’s in 2013. At half-court, they had one corner but it was not stopped, the sole respite from Ireland’s total occupation of their half.
It took a while to break them down, though, as Jermyn crashed wide from the only clear opening of the first half hour. Bruce McCandless unlocked the door with a fine goal, ghosting in from the right sideline and then cracking a low reverse from the top of the circle.
It came in the 34th minute and it brough a second as Mikey Watt won a corner on the hooter and Andy McConnell swept home the third phase.
The second half followed a similar pattern with the goals taking their time to come. Four minutes from the end, Paul Gleghorne slid in at the right post to touch in a corner switch.
Next up, Johnny Bell danced into the circle from the right, having taken down a Conor Harte overhead at pace, and he drilled the ball into the centre for Watt to get solid bunt to, clipping the inside of the post and into the backboard.
Game Two: Ireland 9 (Mitch Darling 4, Mikey Watt, Timmy Cockram, Geoff McCabe, John Jermyn, Conor Harte) Czech Republic 0
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, P Gleghorne, C Harte, J Jermyn, A McConnell, D Ames, C Cargo, M Darling, T Cockram
Subs: P Caruth, I Sloan, S Loughrey, G McCabe
Game three: Ireland (Andy McConnell, Bruce McCandless, Michael Watt, Paul Gleghorne) Czech Republic 0
Ireland: David Fitzgerald, John Jackson, John Jermyn, Peter Caruth, Jason Lynch, Ian Sloan, Bruce McCandless, Peter Blakeney, Conor Harte, Paul Gleghorne, Michael Watt
Subs: Geoff McCabe (capt), Chris Cargo, Andy McConnell, Jonathan Bell, Timmy Cockram, Stuart Loughrey.