Mark Tumilty’s reign as Irish coach started in pleasing fashion as they beat France twice in Bordeaux as they close in on their Olympic qualifiers.
In game one, they won 2-1 with Matthew Nelson after Sean Murray and Blaise Rogeau had exchanged goals.
“We started the game off well, getting ahead in the first quarter from a counter attack and then continued to be dominant throughout the first half,” Murray said afterwards.
“The French put the pressure on in the second half and they were rewarded with an equaliser through a penalty corner. Late in the second half Matthew Nelson banged in a squeeze shot from the top of the D to take the lead and, through some strong deep defence, we were able to see the game out. Overall a very pleasing performance.”
Captain David Harte and defender Luke Madeley were both back after injury while Peter Caruth was back in the side for the first time in 16 months. Chris Cargo was also back in for his first game since the World Cup after unavailability due to work.
With Matthew Nelson returning and Dave Fitzgerald, as second choice goalkeeper, was the sixth of the changes made by Tumilty for the tie from the European line-up
Stephen Cole was a late call-up, stepping in for Eugene Magee who limped out of Banbridge’s defeat to Three Rock Rovers in the EY Hockey Legaue last weekend. The Bann man, though, is hopeful of being ready for the qualifiers.
In game two, Ireland struck late for a second successive game to give them two wins from two with a 3-2 success.
Charles Masson broke the deadlock in the 17th minute but the lead was swapped before half-time. Peter Caruth equalised with his first international goal since February 2018, this series being his first capped games for 16 months.
John McKee – another player getting his chance after a spell out of the panel – then put Ireland in front before half-time with a sharp rebound off Arthur Thieffry’s pads.
Pieter van Straaten’s powerful shot tied things up for a second time in the third quarter but Shane O’Donoghue whipped home a drag-flick with four minutes to go to win the tie 3-2.
Reflecting on the series, coach Tumilty said it was “a much better attacking display from the team. We are making progress and will look to build on this over the next few weeks”.
Next on Ireland’s agenda is a test match against reigning world champions Belgium on October 15th ahead of their Olympic qualifier series on October 26th and 27th in West Vancouver.
Closer to home, all of the 2,500 stand tickets for the two Irish women’s Olympic qualifiers in Donnybrook Stadium sold out within one day with only terrace tickets left for their games on November 2nd and 3rd.
Game one: France 1 (B Rogeau) Ireland 2 (S Murray, M Nelson)
France: A Thieffry, P van Straaten, H Genestet, B Rogeau, C Masson, A Bellenger, N Dumont, G Baumgarten, F Goyet, C Peters-Deutz, J-B Forgues
Subs: J-L Kieffer, S Martin-Brisac, E Tynevez, T Ponthieu, M Branicki
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, T Cross, M Nelson, P Caruth, S O’Donoghue, M Robson, B Walker, D Walsh, C Harte, L Cole
Subs: J Bell, L Madeley, C Cargo, S Murray, J Duncan, S Cole, D Fitzgerald
Game two: France 2 (C Masson, P van Straaten) Ireland 3 (P Caruth, J McKee, S O’Donoghue)
France: A Thieffry, P van Straaten, H Genestet, S Martin-Brisac, B Rogeau, V Lockwood, C Masson, A Bellenger, N Dumont, F Goyet, J-B Forgues
Subs: J-l Kieffer, G Baumgarten, C Peters-Deutz, E Tynevez, T Ponthieu, M Branicki, C Saunier
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, J Bell, T Cross, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, J McKee, B Walker, D Walsh, C Harte, J Duncan
Subs: C Cargo, M Nelson, P Caruth, M Robson, L Cole, S Loughrey, D Fitzgerald