Graham Shaw felt his side were “arguably the better side” over the course of their three game series against England in Belfield this week but the sharp-shooting that defined their Celtic Cup win deserted them this week.
In game one on Tuesday, their counter-attack style put them well in the mix before two lapses in the closing four minutes denied them a share of the spoils.
Rob Farrington and Chris Proctor helped build a 3-1 lead for the English with 21 minutes left. But Ireland got a lifeline three minutes later when Mark Loughrey reacted well as a faulty corner found its way back to the injector to turn home.
Then, James Lorimer stormed down the left, checked his run to lay off to Gary Wilkinson. Just passed half way, he raced into the circle before losing his momentum but had the presence to spin onto his open side and punch home a rasping low strike.
That came with five minutes left but Ireland relinquished parity again within seconds, a really soft effort allowed dribble across the face of goal for James Gall to tap home.
And Joe Sharp made sure of a 5-3 victory on 68 minutes when he swept the ball home over the goalkeeper following a drive down the wing by Sam French.
Game two saw Ireland again recover from a two-goal deficit only for England to finish stronger. Ireland hit the ground running and caused problems for England, but their defence held out and Peter Ellis-Phillips in goal made a string of superb saves on his debut.
In response, a shot from Chris Proctor was half saved, but Arjan Drayton Chana hit the rebound hard and low for the first goal after 26 minutes.
Just before the break England doubled their lead in similar style. A shot from James Albery ricocheted off the goalkeeper, and Tom Morris slapped the ball home.
Lorimer subsequently punished England twice with goals from penalty corners on 49 and 54 minutes to leave the visitors rattled. But they salvaged the win with Sam French scoring a 59th minute penalty corner.
Game three was the one that really got away as Ireland spurned a glut of chances throughout the tie. They did draw first blood when Andy Allen profited after Joe Sharp had been dispossessed. One on one, Allen find the route past Ellis-Phillips’ left foot.
England hit back on 28 minutes through Chris Proctor who was fed by Tom Morris and beat the Justin Hool at the near post.
Loughrey almost netted a sublime effort when he bounced his way through two tackles but his shot cracked the underside of the bar and away.
The second half saw Ireland created over ten clear scoring moments, Jeremy Duncan, Kirk Shimmins, Lee Cole and Matthew Allister all firing in reverse-stick shots while winning a string of penalty corners as the ball agonisingly bounced left and right but not in the goal.
Countering, England got in front with an awful goal, Albery’s shot from five metres inside the circle taking a deflection. The ball was duly watched into the goal with no effort to stop it, believing the English touch was outside the circle.
Charlie Stubbings finish for 3-1 was classy, chipping the ball up onto his reverse and volleying home for a well-taken finish. Lee Cole slammed home a rebound after Wilkinson and Canning down the right but it was scant consolation.
** More photos from Adrian Boehm to follow in due course
Tuesday: Ireland 3 (R Canning, M Loughrey, G Wilkinson) England 5 (J Ruiz, R Farrington, C Proctor, J Gall, J Sharp)
Wednesday: Ireland 2 (J Lorimer 2) England 3 (A Drayton-Chana, T Morris, S French)
Thursday: Ireland 2 (A Allen, L Cole) England 3 (C Proctor, J Albery, C Stubbings)
Ireland U-18 Boys: Matthew Allister (Sullivan Upper/Annadale), Peter Brown (Banbridge Academy/Banbridge), Ross Canning (St Columba’s/Three Rock Rovers), Lee Cole (St Andrew’s/Monkstown), Ben Cosgrove (Banbridge Academy/Banbridge), Jeremy Duncan (Kilkenny College/Railway Union), Stefan Gallagher (Newpark/Avoca), Justin Hool (Campbell College/Annadale), James Lorimer (R.B.A.I./Mossley), Mark Loughrey (St Andrew’s/Pembroke Wanderers), Richard Lynch (Ashton/Cork C of I), Andrew McWhirter (South West College/Cookstown), Ravin Nair (St Andrew’s/Railway Union), Connor Roberts (Sullivan Upper/Anndale), Michael Robson (Sullivan Upper/Annadale), Kirk Shimmins (Wesley College/Pembroke Wanderers), Scott Sullivan (Bandon/Bandon), Gary Wilkinson (Ashton/Cork C of I)