Men’s Hockey – Pool B
Ireland 2 (J Jermyn, C Harte) India 3 (RP Singh 2, VR Raghunath)
India’s greater set piece accuracy gave Ireland a harsh lesson in their first Olympic hockey match for 108 years as three penalty corner goals to two told the tale in Deodoro this morning in intense heat.
For head coach Craig Fulton, he put it down to “accuracy” as Ireland matched and outdid the eight-time Olympic champions for many periods.
“We just didn’t take our chances today,” he said after the tie. “It ebbed and flowed for three quarters and we finished strong in the last quarter after John Jermyn’s goal. We were playing well and had a good few chances but were just not accurate enough.
“As a team, we normally pride ourselves on that accuracy and today it didn’t fire for us. All of our flickers are good and you can see that the shots were on, we just missed the target.”
It was a bright and breezy tie from the outset with John Jackson working an early overload while Nikkin Thimmaiah’s breathtaking turn of speed drew a top stop from David Harte on the baseline.
Peter Caruth and Eugene Magee both fizzed first half efforts over the bar from circle entries but India took the lead on the quarter-time hooter after a string of back-to-back penalty corners.
Ronan Gormley cleared one scuffed effort off the line but a follow-up effort from VR Raghunath broke the deadlock.
Ireland had a leveller chalked off from Jermyn’s switch-move, umpire Paco Vazquez deeming the dummy that delivered the ball to the flicker to have been illegal. Conor Harte dragged another corner shot wide.
India, meanwhile, were more efficient, Rupinder Pal Singh scoring from their second set of corners, hitting the top corner for 2-0 at half-time. Fulton’s side kept creating chances with O’Donoghue firing over before Jermyn found the backboard with his 91st international goal, a low bullet.
It set up an epic final 15 minutes; Rupinder Pal Singh restored the two-goal wedge with a drag that popped off John Jackson’s knee at a vicious speed.
Conor Harte pulled one back with five minutes left when he beat a man off a corner spin-move and then volleying home when the second tackle popped up chest-high.
Ireland were hunting in packs at this stage, hungry for the equaliser. It almost came from a sixth Irish corner but O’Donoghue’s flick went inches past the right post.
Reflecting further on the result, Fulton says it is just those final details the side need to rectify as the fixtures go on this week.
“You have got to be a realist; it’s not like you are playing in a club match. There’s a lot at stake but we’ll be back. Looking behind the result, I see some really good things but it came down to set pieces.
“Tomorrow, we are fully focussed on the Netherlands and getting a result from that. For now, less is more in terms of training and I think we are in an ok place.”
The atmosphere was a strange one with vast swathes of empty seats. Ireland’s travelling crowd of well over 100 made their presence felt but, in combination with the distance from the pitch, made the venue a bit echoey.
A similar situation occurred on the other pitch for the Netherlands and Argentina – a 3-3 draw – with the orange fans making the noise.
Asked about the feeling of playing in such conditions without the large neutral crowds that were at last year’s World League semi-finals or the European Championships, Fulton said that there is a healthy amount of friends and family here to make an impact.
“It didn’t really bother me [the empty stands]. Just so long as the right people are here to support the lads!”
And what about the temperature and the pace of the game: “I don’t know if it was the toughest game we have ever played but it was tough. India are ranked fifth for a reason with strong corners, strong set-piece and strong forwards. But we have that as well and having said all that, we got more corners than them and more chances so it is up to us.”
Ireland play the Dutch on Sunday at 10pm Irish time (6pm in Brazil).
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, J Jermyn, P Caruth, S O’Donoghue, M Darling, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: J Bell, A Sothern, E Magee, K Shimmins, K Good
India: PR Sreejesh, H Singh, K Khadangbam, S Kumar, M Singh, S Singh, VR Raghunath, SK Uthappa, D Mujtaba, SV Sunil, A Singh
Subs: R Singh, D Walmiki, C Kangujam, R Singh, C Thimmaiah
Umpires: M Grime, P Vazquez