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Rollercoaster week ends in crushing defeat for Irish men

Stephen Findlater, The Hook Hockey

The Irish men’s Hockey World Cup dream came to a crushing end in Bhubaneswar in India as they lost 4-2 to England in their final group game.

It followed a rollercoaster week, one which started with an upbeat performance against the world number one side Australia, ultimately only missing out 2-1.Game two, though, proved an exercise in frustration as lower-ranked China held the Green Machine at bay 1-1. For long periods, Ireland bossed the game but were unable to take their chances and the draw put them in a difficult position.

With China also drawing with England, it left Alexander Cox’s side in a difficult position going into their final group game. They needed to get a draw or better against old rivals and higher ranked England.

A low-key first half performance saw Ireland fall 1-0 behind but a rousing third quarter showing made for a series of thrills and spills. Chris Cargo scored a lovely equaliser, starting a run of four goals in three minutes.

Liam Ansell restored England’s lead only for Shane O’Donoghue – breaking the Irish goalscoring record – to make it 2-2 with everything to play for.

Had it stayed that way, Ireland would have had a crossover game to look forward to but England responded instantly via James Gall for 3-2. Try as they might, Ireland could not break through again in the last 21 minutes and Mark Gleghorne poured salt in the wounds with England’s fourth goal with four seconds to go.

It meant England went through in second spot behind Australia while China will meet France in the crossover games.

“Heart broken and so disappointed,” David Harte said in the aftermath of the tie. “I am so proud of how they've played but ultimately we've come up short. We can look back at a whole host of things on what we could do better.

"We wanted to get further than we've ever done in a World Cup and continue our rise in what we are doing and we have come short. It's the small details at the top level and it's gut-wrenching right now.”

Coach Alexander Cox agreed with those sentiments: “I feel empty; you never get used to losing and it is painful. I feel sorry for the boys that we are out of the tournament. It’s not a nice feeling.

“In every game we had the opportunity to get a result. Even against Australia, we could have got something. Against China, we should have won with all the chances we had.

“Today, we had a new opportunity but we were not clinical enough in each three games to get better results. There are areas we need to improve in the future to be more clinical because here, we tried, and I am proud of the way players gave everything to the tournament.

“The next time, we have to make sure we are on the right end of the results but, in the big picture, we can be proud that we are here and giving it our all.”

It closes out 2018 for the side but they now look forward to the Olympic qualification process in the coming year, starting with the World Series Finals in Le Touquet, France in next June.

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