Ireland have made five changes from the panel that won the Celtic Cup as they face up to two Olympic challenges this week, playing South Africa on Wednesday and Belgium on Thursday in Belfield in the UCD 3 Nations competition.
Skipper Ronan Gormley, pictured, returns to the panel to give an extra authority to the backline along with Stu Loughrey, adding two players to the selection from the Olympic qualifiers.
David Cole, now finished his Leaving Certificate, Brian Doherty and Drew Carlisle are also brought in, replacing the quintet of Kenny Carroll, Philip Brown, David Hobbs, Bruce McCandless and Johnny Bell.
In game one of the series, South Africa took the laurels 3-2 against Belgium thanks to a staunch defensive effort in a lively battle. Belgium drew first blood when they were awarded a penalty stroke five minutes into the game with Jerome Dekeyser putting the ball past goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse.
However, the Belgians’ celebrations were cut short, a solid build-up from deep in the SA half resulted in Thornton McDade slotting a goal past the Belgian keeper, taking a deflection on the way.
Lloyd Norris-Jones deflected an excellent Tim Drummond pass four minutes later into the Belgium area to put South Africa into the lead with barely ten minutes gone. Belgium responded with a period of sustained pressure with defenders Andrew Cronje, Lloyd Madsen and Justin Reid-Ross needing to be impressive in releasing the pressure.
An extraordinary effort from Pieterse midway through the half denied three penalty corners in as many minutes to keep the lead into the break. The second period was more circumspect, ghosting between the 25s but overall penetration was lacking despite a seriously high tempo.
Julian Hykes provided the first real action of the second half with 11 minutes to go when he unleashed a pinpoint shot at goal from a tight angle, having picked up a lengthy ball down the left wing.
Thomas Briels’ response from close range was instant, coolly rolling home from a sharp baseline pull-back. Belgium piled forward thereafter, flashing the ball continuously across the face of goal while Pieterse needed to make several saves.
The lowlanders also took off their goalkeeper, a ruse which almost cost them dear as SA had a two-on-one with a padless defender but the pass was premature and left Lloyd Norris-Jones with a tough angle but an open goal nonetheless. His reverse was off target but it proved academic.
** Tickets are available to purchase at the gate for €3 (U-13’s go free)
Wednesday, July 4: Ireland v South Africa, 7.15pm
Thursday, July 5: Ireland v Belgium, 7.15pm
Ireland Squad – UCD 3 Nations: Jonny Bruton (YMCA), Chris Cargo (Reading), Drew Carlisle (Banbridge), David Carson (Corinthian), Tim Cockram (Lisnagarvey), David Cole (Monkstown), Brian Doherty (Beerschot), Stephen Dowds (Banbrige), Ronan Gormley (Club De Campo), Conor Harte (SCHC), David Harte (GK, SCHC), Ian Hughes (Cookstown), John Jackson (Braxgata), John Jermyn (Cork C of I), Stuart Loughrey (Loughborough Students), Jason Lynch (Cork C of I), Eugene Magee (Dragons), Michael Watt (Santander)