Shane O’Donoghue’s hat trick of low drag-flicks powered Ireland to victory over China in the World League Round Two 2013, a result which should ensure they qualify for the next phase of the competition and move them a step closer to World Cup 2014.
They were in control for most of the game, making the early running before Peter Brown – with his second goal of the tournament – got on the end of a smart Stuart Loughrey cross at the back post to get the green machine up and running.
Ireland held possession for long periods thereafter and took the sting out of the game on the half-time hooter when O’Donoghue netted his first goal. He was on primary flicking duties in the absence of Conor Harte, one of the official nominees for player of the tournament, who missed out on the game through injury.
But his presence was scarcely missed as O’Donoghue’s second came in similar fashion, hitting the backboard four minutes after the turnaround and the victory was complete from the same source in the 50th minute. There were plenty of decent chances in between while China were kept under wraps for the majority of the tie, only creating real chances in the closing quarter when the game was up.
Speaking afterwards about the tournament, coach Andrew Meredith was delighted with how his side performed in the wake of a tough build-up to the tournament. Training sessions were snowed off while a number of players were unavailable but the side overcame the odds to come close to claiming the tournament outright. “Just one goal separated us from the side that finished first; who knows what might have happened if we were more effective from our corners?” he said afterwards.
Meredith continued “But it’s remarkable in the context that we probably only had six days preparations for this competition against teams that are training full-time together. It’s a huge disadvantage as is coming from the European winter. To produce what we did and to finish like that is something I am really proud of from the guys.”
Reflecting on the game itself, Meredith said it was the best performance of the five games this week “It was a pressure game and one we had to win. To go out with that sort of mentality and discipline and be so effective was really pleasing.”
Captain Ronan Gormley, meanwhile, said there is more to come from the green machine: “It’s nice to finish off with a dominant performance, keeping a clean sheet in a must-win match.
The Skipper continued “There were areas of our performance this week which were not good enough and, if we got them right, we could have won the tournament. There are areas that we can improve that will help us beat the very top teams at these tournaments.”
Finishing in the top two means Ireland should qualify for round three of the World League where 12 of the 16 entrants will qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
The 16 will be divided into two tournaments with eight heading to the Netherlands and the other eight going to Malaysia. Ireland must wait for the completion of the other round two ties for confirmation and to see which tournament they will be entered into.
Ireland Starting XI: D Harte, J Jackson, G McCabe, R Gormley, M Watt, E Magee, M Darling, P Maguire, P Gleghorne, S Loughrey, S O’Donoghue