SA strike late to earn draw with Irish men

Men’s Senior International test match
Ireland 2 (Mitch Darling, Eugene Magee) South Africa 2 (Brandon Panther, Jethro Eustice)

Ireland’s men began their build-up to the World League round two with a 2-2 draw against South Africa in Hartleyvale, succumbing to a late comeback from the hosts.

Craig Fulton’s side’s short, sharp passing in confined areas led to goals from Michael Darling in the 19th minute and Alan Sothern in the 22nd for a 2-0 lead at half-time.

But the determined South Africans, boosted by their vociferous fans in a packed house, fought their way back into the game and penalty corner strikes in the 40th by Jethro Eustice and Brandon Panther three minutes from the end.

Ireland’s Stephen Dowds (left) and Michael Watt (facing) in close attention as South Africa’s Jethro Eustice takes the ball on Pic: Matt Whithers

Both players have previously lined out for Dublin clubs while former Corinthian man Gowan Jones was particularly impressive between the posts for South Africa.

It was the first of international matches Ireland will play in the coming month before they jet out to San Diego for the first leg of their Olympic qualifying campaign with the second tie coming this evening at the same venue.

The first quarter ended scoreless with last ditch defending in the final minute by SA keeping Ireland out. The second quarter was all Ireland and they took the lead in the 19th minute, a great team goal, finished by Mitch Darling.

A stunning reverse stick shot by Eugene Magee was saved but Alan Sothern was on hand to put home the rebound to send Ireland in at half time leading by 2-0.

The second half saw great counter-attacking hockey from both sides and SA got themselves back into the game with Eustice scoring from a penalty corner to leave the score 2-1 in favour of Ireland at the end of the third quarter.

Ireland forced a a couple of corners in the final quarter but the home defence kept them at bay. With a few minutes left in the clock SA forced a corner and, this time, Panther dragged low to equalise.

South Africa: Jacques le Roux, Lance Louw, Robin Jones, Rhett Halkett, Daniel Bell, Jethro Eustice, Clint Panther, Miguel da Graca, Taine Paton, Brandon Panther, Pierre de Voux.
Subs: Gowan Jones, Gareth Heyns, Marc Fourie, Dylan Swanepoel, Natius Malgraff, Dalan Phillips, Damian Kimfley.

Ireland: David Fitzgerald, John Jackson, Jonathan Bell, Ronan Gormley, Michael Watt, Chris Cargo, Stephen Dowds, Kirk Shimmins, Michael Darling, Paul Gleghorne, Shane O’Donoghue.
Subs: Mark Ingram, Bruce McCandless, Drew Carlisle, Eugene Magee, Michael Robson, Jonathan Bruton, Alan Sothern.

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