Men’s senior international test match
Ireland 5 (S O’Donoghue, M Nelson, C Harte, B Walker, E Magee) USA 0
The summer of International hockey got off to a great start at Serpentine Avenue on Friday evening as an impressive Ireland team overcame the USA 5 -0 in the first of a two-match series.
In ideal conditions, the opening exchanges were evenly matched with neither side asserting early dominance. Ireland got on the scoresheet in the 13th minute, however, through a Shane O’Donoghue backhand shot from an acute angle.
In quarter two, not long after missing a good chance, Matthew Nelson was able to convert Ireland’s second goal via a neat low backhand deflection in 19th minute. Good interplay between John Jackson and Eugene Magee down the right flank saw Magee deliver the pinpoint cross for Nelson to finish.
The USA had several chances and good passages of play through the first half with the impressive Pat Harris pulling a lot of their strings in the centre of midfield.
In the third quarter, after the US had missed a gilt-edged goal chance, Ireland unleashed one of their increasingly fast counter attacks. After a powerful 40 metre dribble by Nelson the ball fell to Sean Murray and his backhand shot was looping goalwards, Conor Harte was on hand on the back post to deflect it over the line for 3-0. It was his first goal from open play in an Irish jersey.
Ben Walker then made it 4-0 after a passage of fast passes resulted in him finding enough room in the US circle to get his low backhand shot away.
For Walker, he was delighted to get on the scoresheet in his first international tie since the 2017 Europeans: “it was my first game playing for the national team for a number of years so it was nice to get on the score sheet. We got a number of field goals as well, especially leading into our tournament in France where we will need to be clinical, so nice to get a clean sheet and five goals.
“We have been working on goalscoring this side of Christmas so hopefully it is paying off. We know we are playing sides ranked lower than us over there so we will need that and need to be smart in how we play. There will be a lot of positives taken from this.”
Eugene Magee scored Ireland’s fifth goal, shooting high into the net after receiving a baseline pass. At this stage, the game was a very open affair with the USA threatening to get on their scoresheet.
Jamie Carr and the Irish defenders were up to the challenge to make key interventions when called upon. Aki Kaeppelar after intricate stick skills was able to produce a deflected chance for the US which Carr dealt with.
Luke Madeley had a goal-line save at this point from a straight drag flick from a USA penalty corner.
The Irish defence were able to keep a clean sheet with Paul Gleghorne putting his body on the line of a goal-bound shot in the last 30 seconds.
Pat Harris was the standout player for the USA and Ireland had many strong performances with Magee again displaying the attacking ability that has helped earn him 278 caps so far for the Green Machine.
But it was an impressive team performance from Ireland with solid defensive structure and strong counter-attacking skill and intensity further up the pitch.
The evening was capped off in a very enjoyable manner with a large number of young players being treated to a skills clinic on the pitch with the entire Ireland team and coaches after the match.
This experience will live for a long time with the many youngsters who participated, and many thanks must go to the Ireland team and management for facilitating this.
Ireland: M Ingram, J Jackson, J Bell, M Nelson, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, B Walker, D Walsh, C Harte, L Cole, S Cole, M Robson, P Gleghorne, N Glassey, M Bell, L Madeley, J Carr, E Magee
USA: J Klages, A Montilla, P Harris, S Harris, A Dhadwal, T Barratt, K Kaeppler, P Singh, J Orozco, D Huisman, M Gandhi, M Barminski, A Miller, C de Angelis, W Holt, S Cicchi, J Croonenberghs