With Ireland’s 5-2 win over Spain on Sunday, it brought their goal tally to 36 in eight games over the course of their Tri-Nations series in Belfield, a rare glut but one that is perfectly in keeping with Darren Smith’s philosophy for his Irish team.
Admittedly most of those goals came against a young French side run ragged but the volume of chances created against their other opponent, the world number 14s, was an encouraging facet as they look to build on their silver medal in the Champions Challenge I in Glasgow in May.
Speaking about his overall plans for the team, Smith told The Hook last Sunday that an attacking outlook is something he has been striving for since taking on the head coach’s job at the back end of 2012, saying it is part of the Irish mentality.
“When we chatted 18 months ago when I was first appointed, I said I wanted to attack and play with the ball. I don’t think I am a recklessly attacking coach but I do think Irish people want to play with a bit of endeavour.
“They like to have a go and I think it would be against the core values as a country to limit that. When we have been at our worst has been when we have been stodgy, lacked intent and running ability. At our best, we bring that. Today, we were attacking, fluid and quick and it was good.”
Reflecting on the 5-2 win, it was the conversion that attacking play deserved after some fine performances were scuppered by a lack of efficiency in front of goal
“It was good. The first game we had 20 opportunities on goal against Spain; if we were moderate in what we want to convert, we would want five or six goals. In the third game, we had 14 chances, so it was pretty low success. Today, it was nice to be able to create and score them.
“I thought the first 20 minutes we played really well. Maybe we didn’t feel too comfortable in that position and sabotaged our performance with some quite poor play. But, in the second half, we had more control.”
His Spanish counterpart Adrian Lock, meanwhile, said that Ireland probably played the better hockey but was pleased with how his team managed to grind out results
“It’s been a great week for us. We’ve been using it as a preseason having come straight from holiday. We suffered a little bit physically but its been great to be together and bring in a few new faces ahead of the club season and the real work towards round three of the World League.
“We want to try different systems. Overall, Ireland has played a bit better than us but haven’t been effective. We’re trying to learn how to win games; we have improved a lot over the last year but lack effectiveness in the opposition D so its been nice to come here, not play as well, and win games and close them out.”
Their preparations are now fully focussed on hosting that third round of the World League in Valencia next summer, something that gives his side a series of bonuses as he looks to develop a side good enough to qualify for the Olympics.
“There’s a downside in having that tournament experience for a young team. But, playing at home, being comfortable on our own pitch, having our families there and the fact we can do all our preparation on the competition pitch is a big bonus. The biggest is that the competition teams will want to try the pitch out and so we can get games against the top teams.
“It is increasingly difficult for mid-level teams to get a decent quantity of games against the top ten teams who want to play against each other and don’t have much interest playing us. Hopefully, more teams will come over and help us improve.”