Sultan Azlan Shah Cup
Fifth/sixth playoff: Ireland 1 (J Dale) India 4 (V Kumar 2, S Lakra, G Singh)
In the Ipoh sweatbox, an Irish side working off a much shorter bench were unable to summon another big result against India, closing out their maiden Sultan Azlan Shah tournament in sixth place.
Eugene Magee and Sean Murray were unable to play due to illness while Stephen Cole only made a fleeting appearance. With Julian Dale playing with six stitches in his hand, it meant a lot of longer shifts in the heat – particularly in midfield – while the use of Sam O’Connor as a makeshift forward in the rotation showed some of the travails.
India went ahead in the fifth minute when Varun Kumar’s drag-flick took a wicked deflection off number one runner Michael Robson.
After that – and for much of the first half – Ireland were content to sit deep, conserve energy with a potential view to upping the second half tempo.
It led to something of a stalemate with India holding a decent amount of ball but struggled to do too much of note with it. Ireland, meanwhile, had just one circle entry before the break but their plan was rocked when a Nilam Xess bounced through to Shilanand Lakra who poked home for 2-0 in the 28th minute.
Kumar’s direct drag-flick in the second half was a killer blow to any Irish intentions and the win was complete when Talwinder Singh delayed his pass for Gurjant Singh to run in the fourth.
Julian Dale – bizarrely referred to as the “jolly green giant” by commentator Ashley Morrison – got one back 12 minutes from the end, flipping in from a lovely move via Shane O’Donoghue, Alan Sothern and Chris Cargo.
A corner was won but the injection was fumbled and so a 4-1 final score closed the curtain on the week in Malaysia, giving Craig Fulon plenty to ponder.
In the grand scheme of things, with on world ranking points on the line, how the newer faces got on and how the side adapted to the conditions were chief among the tournament targets in an event packed with sides bound for the Commonwealth Games.
Next on the agenda is a series against Germany at Pembroke in May.
Ireland: J Carr, J Bell, C Cargo, A Sothern, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, J McKee, M Robson, P Gleghorne, L Cole, S Loughrey
Subs: M Bell, S O’Connor, J Dale, M Ingram, S Cole
India: S Karkera, S Kumar, Sardar Singh, Simranjeet Singh, Sumit, T Singh, V Kumar, N Xess, S Kumar, A Rohidas, R Singh
Subs: M Mor, G Singh, D Tirkey, N Sharma, K Pathak, S Lakra