Investec London Cup: Ireland 4 (A Sothern 2, S O’Donoghue, M Darling) South Africa 2 (T Paton, L Louw)
** Words from The Top of the D who will be in situ all week at the event
A brace from Alan Sothern helped to give Ireland a 4-2 win over South Africa, a side ranked four places above them in the world. The number 10 scored a lovely sliding deflection and then pulled off a terrific deft touch to find the roof of the net to make it 4-1 with 25 minutes to play as Craig Fulton’s side secured the three points from their opening game.Ireland started brightly and Rassie Pieterse in the South Africa goal was forced into action early on to deny Conor Harte and Michael Robson. With 19 minutes gone, the Green Machine took the lead. Shane O’Donoghue snuck a low penalty corner underneath the goalkeeper to break the deadlock.
Davey Harte did well to repel an Austin Smith penalty corner but there was little the Kampong keeper could do to prevent Fabian Gregory’s team drawing level in the 25th minute. A turnover just outside the D let in Taine Paton and he made no mistake with an unerring finish. Four minutes later the lead was restored.
Kirk Shimmins drove round the right and the ball broke to Mitch Darling who shot on the turn into the far corner to make it 2-1. Ireland defended another Smith penalty corner well, with Conor Harte charging down the shot to preserve the lead at the break.
Six minutes after the break it was 3-1. Shimmins found space down the left and played an inch-perfect reverse stick cross in that was expertly finished by Sothern, diving full length to touch home. Four minutes later he grabbed his second goal with a superb deflection into the roof of the net, this time from a right wing cross.
The balance of the game shifted as Ireland were reduced to ten men after Conor Harte picked up a ten minute yellow card, but despite Lance Louw reducing the arrears the Irish defence, marshalled well by skipper John Jackson, held firm to maintain their two goal lead and collect the three points.
Ireland will hope to continue their good form against Scotland in their next game. In the second tie of the day, England blew away Scotland 6-0 to get their tournament up and running in fine fashion, netting four times in the first half to lay the base for the win.
Double goal-scorer Alan Sothern commented after the match: “We’re happy with the start. It’s good to come out and get a win in the first game it’s a great stadium so it’s nice to get a win here, too.
“We want to win every game, of course, but we also have objectives against how we play and we want to pick up results against the higher ranked teams and we’ve managed to do that today.
“It’s always nice to score, I’m just on the end of the moves but it made a difference in the end. We caught them napping a bit on my second and I managed to step in front of the defender and it was great to see it go in the roof of the net.
“We’ve been knocking on the door for some big tournaments in the recent times, we were seconds away from making it to London so of course these sorts of tournaments are great for us because they let us test ourselves against good teams. We know we’re not far off getting to a big competition, so this will hopefully stand us in good stead.”
Results: Ireland 4 (A Sothern 2, S O’Donoghue, M Darling) South Africa 2 (T Paton, L Louw); England 6 (A Jackson 2, P Roper, S Mantell, M Gleghorne, H Weir) Scotland 0
Today’s fixture: Ireland vs Scotland, 5.15pm; England vs South Africa, 7.30pm