Ireland 4 (S O’Donoghue 2, P Caruth, M Darling) Canada 2 (S Tupper 2)
Ireland’s history-makers added yet another amazing victory to their list of achievements as their dramatic 4-2 win over Canada keeps them in with a fighting chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games.
Their cause was helped an hour later when Germany’s Mathias Muller scored a stunning equaliser with eight seconds remaining against Argentina, recording a 4-4 draw. The combination of results means that if Ireland can beat Argentina in their final group game on Friday evening (11.30pm, Irish time) in Deodoro then a quarter-final spot awaits.
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Looking back on the Irish game, head coach Craig Fulton said it was “just what we needed”. “The first Olympic win, three points. It’s huge. They deserved it. We have been pushing hard for four games and everyone can see the lads are leaving it all on the field. Today, we were clinical.”
Indeed, Shane O’Donoghue scored just 56 seconds into the game with a brilliant drag-flick over the head of the diminutive David Carter for a very early 1-0 lead. It was an obvious tactic, gleaned from five previous matches against the Canadians earlier in 2016 and each of Ireland’s corners were destined for the upper third of the goal.
Canada bounced back and had much of the play in the second quarter. That was until their captain and key central defender Scott Tupper took a green card suspension and two goals came in his absence. Ireland won another penalty corner that O’Donoghue launched into the right of the goal for 2-0.
Within 75 seconds, it was 3-0 as Peter Caruth dove full-length onto a rebound off Carter’s pads to score – it capped an excellent move that had seen Mikey Watt take the initial first time shot that created the danger after Ireland had swept up the left baseline at serious pace.
Watt was a constant threat with his runs wreaking havoc while Kirk Shimmins was in a similarly vibrant mood, his boundless energy again a feature.
The foot, however, was taken off the gas in the second half to some extent and Canada pressed forward with menace. Craig Fulton preached to his side to control the ball but they gifted possession to Keegan Pereira who missed a gilt-edged chance seconds into the second half.
It was a warning sign not heeded. The returning Tupper got one back with an excellent shot from the top the circle, picked out by an excellently angled pass from the left corner.
Ireland only stayed 3-1 ahead going into the last quarter courtesy of Ronan Gormley’s dexterity, flicking the ball away from the goal line off Matthew Guest’s deflected cross seemed destined to be touched in by a flying Benjamin Martin.
Tupper’s drag-flick clipped the inside of the post on its way in to reduce the gap further and it was panic stations soon after. Eugene Magee somehow took another chance off the line, bouncing it off the post and away to safety.
They were living on their wits but, from a rare Irish break-out, Chris Cargo and Watt kept a chance alive and Mitch Darling was on hand to nudge the ball – pretty much tackling the ball over the line for his second goal of the tournament, taking the sting out of the last four minutes. It sealed a famous victory and keeps Ireland’s chances alive for another day at least.
Reflecting on the result, Fulton said: “We were under pressure at the end of course but it’s the last quarter of an Olympic pool game and everything counts. Chuffed, proud of everyone.
“The fans, the support has been immense and I hope it grows and people get behind the team because they really are putting themselves out there.
“To go 3-0 up, the way we played and executed the corners was something that has been missing from the last three games but we knew we had it in us and it was awesome.”
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, M Darling, K Good, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: J Bell, A Sothern, J Jermyn, P Caruth, K Shimmins
Canada: D Carter, S Tupper, D Teixeira, G Ho-Garcia, K Pereira, J Gill, A Froese, G Johnston, M Pearson, M Sarmento, S Panesar
Subs: B Martin, B Bissett, I Smythe, M Guest, T Curran
Umpires: N Stagno, M Servetto