Stunning second half salvo sees Ireland beat world number fives

Men’s international test match
Ireland 2 (S O’Donoghue, M Nelson) Germany 1 (T Herzbruch)
Two stunning goals in the first three minutes of the second half saw Ireland beat Germany 2-1 at Serpentine Avenue, taking the laurels from their two-game series with the world number five side into the bargain.

Coach Craig Fulton said afterwards he was much more concerned with testing facets of play than the overall result but did admit it was “great for sure” to win against the Olympic bronze medalists.

Developing some alternative strategies, however, was very much the aim of the game for this week with switches between man-to-man and zonal systems.

“We are in a different phase, trying out new tactics and in a position to do it outside of competition-mode like the last year or 14 months and this is a good starting point.

“Honestly, I am not too worried about the result but we looked at this weekend as eight quarters with different objectives in each of them to try and nail them.

“We didn’t do it all but that’s nice and give us something to work on. It’s been a really long league season; to come in, train and then go into back-to-back games against Germany was a good performance.”

The Honamas started in thunderous fashion with an aggressive high press. Johannes Grosse drew an excellent strong boot from David Fitzgerald while Lee Cole – on his 50th cap – did well to volley away a drag-flick off the line.

Hannes Muller also tipped a chance inches wide before Timm Herzbruch made the breakthrough with a powerful reverse, finishing off a three on two break in the 14th minute.

The second quarter was much tighter with Ireland getting on the ball far more and causing more problems. Teo Hinrichs’ overlaps down the right did see Germany get in behind the defence a couple of times but nothing came of the subsequent crosses.

Coach Craig Fulton made some key tactical changes. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Ireland did not have a single shot in the first half but within three minutes of the restart, they found themselves 2-1 in front courtesy of two very classy pieces of work.

Jeremy Duncan got to the baseline to deliver a cross for Shane O’Donoghue to tip in to tie things up 45 seconds in; it was his third time scoring in wins over Germany.

Two minutes later, some excellent ball retention ended with an incisive pass from Conor Harte to Matthew Nelson in the circle.

With back to goal, he quickly unleashed a reverse that beat Mark Appel all ends up. Germany got back into a possession-based groove but they found slim pickings in and around the circle.

Niklas Wellen’s rising shot was palmed away by Fitzgerald and, as time wore on, it was the green machine that probably should have killed the game off.

Tobias Walter came in for the last 15 minutes and denied Alan Sothern from a baseline shot after Mitch Darling’s drive while O’Donoghue’s flip at goal was head-butted to safety.

It almost proved costly as Dieter Linnekogel forced a glove save from Fitzgerald while Germany won a corner on the final whistle. Jonny Bell spectacularly volleyed off the line though Bruce Bale would probably have ruled out the effort had he missed due to a combination of Christopher Ruhr’s back-stick and dangeously high shot.

“We struggled in the first half; they put on a good press in the man to man phase,” Fulton reflected. “We didn’t hold the ball and couldn’t get it out but we settled at half-time and rethought the process. It was all us then for five minutes and yielded us those two goals so lots of positives.”

A feature of the weekend was the goalkeeping performances of Jamie Carr and Fitzgerald in the absence of David Harte.

Fulton said his goalkeeping coach deserves much of the credit, adding that Mark Ingram is also on form: “In Mr Nigel Henderson, we probably have our best-kept secret. We have four top quality goalkeepers; Jamie had a stormer on Friday, Fitzy was great after a long while away.”

Indeed, he was one of three players who were in Rio along with John Jackson and Mitch Darling who returned this week. For Jackson, he has become a father while Darling will get married this summer as life moves on apace.

“A lot has happened after the Olympics and it’s a big block of time to get your life back on track. And then to make even more time for your hockey, it’s indicative of them and they still want to be part of this team which is a major positive and we reap the benefits.”

Ireland: D Fitzgerald, J Bell, M Bell, C Cargo, M Nelson, S O’Donoghue, M Darling, D Walsh, C Harte, J Duncan, L Cole
Subs: J Jackson, A Sothern, K Shimmins, O Magee, M Robson, P Gleghorne, J Carr

Germany: M Appel, M Haner, J Meyer, N Wellen, T Herzbruch, D Linnekogel, F Weinke, C Ruhr, B Furk, A Boeckel, M Rothlander
Subs: M Kapaun, H Muller, T Hinrichs, N Bosserhoff, J Grosse, N Bruns, T Walter

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