Jackson relishes Irish return as Green Machine make it two from two

Men’s Senior International test match
Ireland 2 (S O’Donoghue, L Madeley) USA 0

Penalty corner goals from Shane O’Donoghue and Luke Madeley saw Ireland’s men complete a 2-0 win over USA at Serpentine Avenue, adding to Friday’s 5-0 success over the same opposition.

The wins give Ireland a boost as they begin their preparations in earnest for the FIH Series Finals in Le Touquet, France in June, a vital step on the road to potentially qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

For John Jackson, it was a great way to return to action with the side after a hiatus and he relished being back in Green Machine colours.

“I love it!” he told The Hook. “A lot of these guys, I have been playing with since I was about 14 years old; they are among my best friends and I love playing on home soil so it was amazing and good to get two good games under our belts.”

“I’m working and a new Dad so I needed that six months to figure out how it all works in combination with school. It is the nature of being an Irish hockey athlete but I am delighted Alex [Cox] has given me the chance to come back in.

“I still feel I have something to offer; I love being part of the group; I love representing my country and want to be the best I can be. It was a necessary six months out but I am raring to go for this next six months and, hopefully, 18 months.

“It’s the big change since I started in 2006. International hockey was always a summer thing; for the last few years, it has now become all year-round,” jackson said of the reasons for missing the World Cup.

“We have adapted really well as an Irish team but there will always be those pressures, particularly when you are the wrong side of 30. Work and family does creep in but my wife is so understanding.

“She is a hockey player herself and has a doctorate in sports psychology so she knows what it takes and the sacrifices to get to this level. It wouldn’t be possible without her and my work colleagues covering my ass. Chuffed to be back and now it is all about that dream and vision of getting to Tokyo.”

The Green Machine started well and hit the front inside the first three minutes following a series of penalty corners, O’Donoghue hitting the net for 1-0.

They continued to carry the greater threat through the first quarter with Matthew Nelson causing problems and Matthew Bell drew a big stop from goalkeeper Jonathan Klages.

The US, for their part, went close but Mark Ingram got out well to make good stops from Deegan Huisman and Mike Barminski to keep Ireland’s lead in tact.

A couple more Irish corners went incomplete early in the second quarter while Michael Robson’s rising shot was batted away by Klages.

Madeley made it 2-0 in the 23rd minute with a high drag-flick to give a bit more comfort on the scoreboard and they carried this advantage to the big break after Patrick Harris’s dangerous shot was cleared by Ingram.

John Jackson returned to the Irish setup. Pic: Adrian Boehm

The second half was scrappier with both sides trying out new pressing techniques. Ireland were making nice circle entries and getting to the baseline but they could not back that up with the killer touch in front of goal.

USA, meanwhile, had the clearer openings when Huisman pounced on a mistake but Jamie Carr – on as a half-time sub – raced off his line to charge down the shot before Kei Kaeppler whipped the rebound over the bar.

Kai de Jager was standing in as lead coach for the weekend due to head coach Alexander Cox’s involvement with SV Kampong – along with David Harte – in the Dutch national final.

Speaking afterwards, de Jager said he was content with what his side worked on over the course of the series against the US.

“We are really happy about some things, young guys stepping up like Benny Walker; we got a lot of circle entries in the positions we wanted them to be,” he said.

“Pressing wise, we still need to make some steps because if you play a high zonal format, it can be difficult to get it right the first time you use it.

“I’m happy with the goalkeeping work and our deep defence which is something we pride ourselves on. USA is a good opponent who are going to the FIH Series as well and we scored seven with two clean sheets There’s not much more you can ask for, maybe score a few more goals.”

Next on the Irish men’s agenda is a two-game series against France in Lisnagarvey on June 4 and 6 before travelling to Le Touquet where their FIH Series Finals begin on June 15.

Ireland: M Ingram, J Jackson, J Bell, M Nelson, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, B Walker, D Walsh, C Harte, L Cole, S Cole
Subs: M Robson, P Gleghorne, N Glassey, M Bell, L Madeley, J Carr

USA: J Klages, A Montilla, P Harris, S Harris, A Dhadwal, T Barratt, K Kaeppler, P Singh, J Orozco, D Huisman, M Gandhi
Subs: M Barminski, A Miller, C de Angelis, W Holt, S Cicchi, J Croonenberghs

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