Ireland’s men won their first two games since the World Cup as they beat France 2-0 and 2-1 in Utrecht this week in a pair of uncapped fixtures, kicking off their Olympic qualifier preparations.
It followed a tough physical training block since the beginning of January and one camp last week prior to these two games.
The break was well received by all players and staff and the squad is reporting “a real buzz around the camp now in the lead up into the World Series this June in France”.
Game one was a little scrappy with a number of unforced errors as Ireland tried out new defensive structures. They did produce some nice phases of play via Shane O’Donoghue, Eugene Magee and Stu Loughrey which resulted in O’Donoghue finding space in the circle unmarked to slot home the first goal on his reverse.
They pushed on from there and created some attacks which led a corner which O’Donoghue slotted home. The French stepped up to win a couple of corners toward the end of the game which were defended well by goalkeepers Jamie Carr and Mark Ingram.
The French scored late in the game with some nice interplay along the left-hand side which ended with a close-range finish, 2-1 final score.
The second tie ended 2-0 to the Green Machine despite a slow start with France having most of the ball in the first two quarters with the French peppering the 23 but deep defence kept Ireland afloat.
The second half was a totally different game from an Irish perspective with some longer phases of play in the French half. It resulted in Ireland’s only corner which was initially run down only to be fired home on the upright reverse from hurler Magee.
Ireland kicked on from here with some nice phases and with the French now giving chase, going to 11 outfielders at one stage. Ireland managed their extra man well and countered near the end with Kirk Shimmins slotting home into an empty net.
The squad featured Guy Sarratt for the first time with the Irish senior panel in the opening game while there were plenty of returnees following the World Cup including Julian Dale, Neal Glassey, Callum Robson, Sam O’Connor and John Jackson.
Unavailable or injured for the camp were Alan Sothern, Michael Robson, David Harte, David Fitzgerald and Johnny McKee. Ireland will face Japan in Utrecht next month and the USA in a couple of games in May in Ireland before their Hockey Series Finals in June.
Ireland men’s panel for series vs France: Jamie Carr, Mark Ingram, Lee Cole, Stuart Loughrey, Conor Harte, Paul Gleghorne, Guy Sarratt, Matthew Bell, Shane O’Donoghue, John Jackson, Neal Glassey, Stephen Cole, Callum Robson, Kirk Shimmins, Eugene Magee, Jeremy Duncan, Julian Dale, Ben Walker, Jonny Bell, Luke Madeley, Sam O’Connor, Sean Murray, Daragh Walsh