Ireland left empty after devastating World Cup exit

With emotions still raw in the wake of their World Cup departure, the Irish squad attempted to put into words their feelings following their departure from the competition.

It had started with a hugely encouraging performance against Australia before a frustrating 1-1 draw with China. Needing a draw from the final game against England, they twice got back on terms but fell 4-2 in the final reckoning, leaving them fourth in Pool B, bowing out in agonising fashion from their first World Cup in 28 years.

Ireland depart the field following the England game. Pic: FIH/Getty

“I feel empty,” coach Alexander Cox said. “You never get used to losing and it is painful. I feel sorry for the boys; it’s not a nice feeling.”

Reflecting on the tie itself, coach Cox said Ireland were too passive in the early stages when he wanted the side to take the game to their opposition and put a few doubts in their mind.

“I wasn’t happy with our first quarter,” he said afterward. “I wanted to start off in an aggressive way, pressure their defence into mistakes and play attacking hockey.

“England needed a result so there must have been tension on their side. We didn’t and we were on the back foot and they kept the ball for the most part which I wasn’t happy about.

“We did turn it around and played better in the second half, gave it our all, created chances to get back in the game but they scored too soon after every equaliser. That broke us.”

Shane O’Donoghue concurred: “To fall out at the group stage of a big tournament once again is bitterly disappointing. We didn’t give ourselves a fair chance in the first half, to give ourselves a platform to dig our heels into the game. We knew it would be a battle and we weren’t up for it and gave them the foothold

“It gave us a big mountain to climb. We tried it and got level but conceded soon after. It’s uncharacteristic of us and we usually do thrive under pressure.”

As for the tournament as a whole, each game did have its elements of ‘what might have been’ with the China game the one that well and truly got away.

“That was the game for sure, a must-win three points,” O’Donoghue continued. “We weren’t clinical enough; with our corners and everything, we have to get better. You need that in these tournaments.

“There will be some regrets and things we look back on and not be overly happy about. We gave it our all from one to 20, we gave it everything and the staff alike, putting their plans in place. Everybody played their role but it just comes down to execution on the day.”

Cox added: “In every game, we had the opportunity to get a result. Even against Australia, we could have got something. Against China, we should have won with all the chances we had.

Shane O’Donoghue fires a drag-flick at goal. Pic: FIH/Getty

“Today, we had a new opportunity but we were not clinical enough in each game to get better results. There are areas we need to improve in the future to be more clinical.

“You need some luck in the last parts of the game. It’s creating a war zone in the nine yard area and getting the ball in there. We tried but didn’t succeed.”

“I am proud of the way players gave everything to the tournament. The next time, we have to make sure we are on the right end of the results but, in the big picture, we can be proud that we are here and giving it our all.”

“Heartbroken and so disappointed,” David Harte said. “I am so proud of how they’ve played but ultimately we’ve come up short. We can look back at a whole host of things on what we could do better.

“We wanted to get further than we’ve ever done in a World Cup and continue our rise in what we are doing and we have come short. It’s the small details at the top level and it’s gut-wrenching right now.”

“It’s months, years of sacrifice,” O’Donoghue concluded of the effort to reach this top table and the ambition to make their mark on the world stage.

“There is a reason why we sacrifice so much, putting in those hours upon hours of training, to have moments like this, to be in tournaments like this.

“The setup here is like nothing we have experienced before. It’s cut-throat and it will hurt deeply and it will take a while to get over this.”

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