Ballsbridge énergie Fitness Match Series
Ireland 5 (G Watkins, L Cole, M Darling, J Jermyn, E Magee) Korea 2 (N Lee, J Seo)
Three final quarter goals saw Ireland start their Ballsbridge énergie Fitness Match Series with Korea in top notch fashion, beating the world number nine side with something to spare.
It was a fine performance from the green machine, bouncing back well from a tough series in Germany two weeks ago against the reigning Olympic champions.
Korea arrived as a nemesis having ended Ireland’s Olympic dream in 2012 but there was precious little baggage on display in an up-tempo tie at the Merrion Fleet Arena.
Indeed, Ireland never trailed as Gareth Watkins’ sixth minute goal set the tone, capitalising from an excellent counter-attack move via Peter Caruth to John Jermyn. Jermyn’s first time shot on the slide hit the bar but Watkins was on hand to bundle in the goal.
It was reward for a good start as the hosts attacked at pace and caused plenty of problems. Mitch Darling drew a great stop from Hong off the back of Neal Glassey’s pin-point cross while John Jermyn’s drag was tipped wide.
Korea, though, play an aggressive pressing style and they did well to isolate Irish defenders on a couple of occasions to steal the ball in great, overload situations.
Nam Yong Lee equalised from one such squeeze when Ireland failed to clear their lines, making it 1-1 at half-time. They pushed on in the early phases of the second half, too, but the Olympic-bound hosts were back in front in the 41st minute from a cheaply conceded penalty corner. Lee Cole’s low drag-flick found the bottom corner.
Again, Korea bounced back quickly with Seo adding a delicious touch to a left wing cross, tapping it behind his back first time to leave David Harte completely wrong-footed. It made it 2-2 within a minute of Cole’s effort.
From there, though, Ireland were the smarter team and kept picking off the Asian opponents, robbing the ball from a deep press and racing out from the back.
Mitch Darling’s shot took the lead for a third time; he initially looked intent on passing but, as the Korean defence backed off, he duly had space to take the initiative and thumped through goalkeeper Hong’s padding into the backboard for 3-2.
Jermyn whipped a drag-flick into the top left corner for 4-2 with ten minutes to go and Eugene Magee capped a fine performance with a neat volley to Timmy Cockram’s goal-bound push following another flowing move set up by Kyle Good’s teasing run.
Speaking afterwards, Craig Fulton said of the performance:“The plan was we wanted to be nice and aggressive and they are a good counter-attacking team so sometimes you have to punch above your weight in that area to push them back and it was a good performance from the guys.
“It’s game one of eight in this block so we will keep working on the things that are working and look at the video for those that aren’t working to be ready for another big game on Thursday. There’s nine guys who didn’t play tonight so there is plenty of competition.”
The second game in the series takes place on Thursday evening at 7pm before the side play on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm, all at the Merrion Fleet Arena.
Ireland: D Harte, J Bell, C Cargo, J Jermyn, E Magee, M Bell, M Darling, T Cockram, K Good, P Gleghorne, S Loughrey
Subs: R Gormley, G Watkins, P Caruth, N Glassey, D Carlisle, L Cole, D Fitzgerald
Korea: D-P Hong, J Seo, S You, N Lee, D Y Lee, J Yang, M Kang, J-J Lee, J-S Bae, H You, M Jung
Subs: T I Hwang, J-H Kim, J Kim, Y Lee, W-H Seo, H-J Kim, J Kim