Andrew Meredith’s Ireland were beaten 4-2 at the weekend, against New Zealand on a cold & wet June morning in Rotterdam.
It’s a game Ireland may yet look back on as a missed opportunity having been well in the game for long periods against a side ranked 6th in World Hockey.
Both sides started the game slowly with few chances falling in the early exchanges before Ireland’s Chris Cargo saw his goal bound shot palmed away by McGregor in the New Zealand goal. Ireland were defending excellently and used this defensive stability as a basis to mount an swift counter attack mid-way through the first half which saw Peter Caruth earn Ireland’s first penalty corner in the 17th minute. The resulting corner saw Pembroke Wanderers man Alan Sothern strike towards goal blocked on the line and the awarding of a penalty stroke. The prolific Sothern stepped up himself, sent the keeper the wrong day and gave the Green Machine a 1-0 lead.
The lead only lasted 5 minutes though as New Zealand responded well and got back on level terms when New Zealand’s Burrows and Ireland’s Bell challenged for a ball in the circle and the ball deflected into David Harte’s Ireland goal for the Black Sticks equaliser. With ten minutes remaining in the first half, New Zealand were reduced to 10 men when Panchia was yellow carded for a high stick challenge on Andy McConnell which drew blood. McConnell was able to continue but Ireland were lacklustre offensively with the extra man and couldn’t force a goal to take a half time lead. The sides headed for the break at 1-1.
Into the second half and New Zealand started the brighter of the two sides. Restored to a full complement of players, the Black Sticks took the lead in the 47th minute following good work from Childs initially to win the penalty corner which was expertly converted by Haig. Ireland’s response was swift however and within seconds the Green Machine were back as level terms as Michael Watt fired high into the goal from the middle of the circle. It was the response the Green Machine required but it sadly didn’t become the catalyst for an impressive victory as once again New Zealand rallied strongly.
The Black Sticks regained the lead in the 54th minute as Hilton touched home from close range. Ireland enjoyed some good possession following this however couldn’t create any real clear cut scoring opportunities. In the 64th minute, New Zealand wrapped up the contest as Ireland were once again punished at a penalty corner as Hayward fired home for the 4-2 advantage.
Ireland to their credit, pushed and probed to get a goal back to set up a tense finish with McConnell & Caruth going close for the Green Machine but it wasn’t to be for the men in green this morning.
Speaking to hockey.ie following the game, a disappointed Irish coach Andrew Meredith told us “The result, while deserved, was disappointing on a number of levels. The performance was far too inconsistent over the 70 minutes, we were ineffective in critical offensive areas, and probably most disappointing was the contribution from some of the more senior experienced players, who made far too many errors in regards to executing our game plan.”
Meredith continued “Obviously due to the fact that we only have one point after two games, it is important that we return to the core elements of our process, and look at how we can execute better in the coming matches.”