Changing times for Ireland
A SCORELESS draw with the United States yesterday failed to prevent Ireland from finishing last in the four-nations hockey tournament in Barcelona. However, in the context of earlier defeats at the hands of their Spanish hosts (3-0) and Argentina (6-1), it was a result which restored damaged pride.
The changing complexion of world hockey is illustrated by the fact that the Americans won the tournament, following their earlier victories against the odds over Argentina and Spain.
Such a scenario would have been unthinkable only 12 months ago but for the US squad, it's a case of all play and no work, since "the squad assembled in San Diego a year ago in preparation for the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
In contrast, Ireland, without seven members of the European Nations Cup squad, had just one get-together prior to their departure for Spain, but time is on their side with the World Cup preliminary tournament in Sardinia four months down the line.
Devin Donnelly and his Pembroke Wanderers colleague, Jamie McBride, Avoca'a Peter Darley and young Instonians striker Mark Irwin, all earned their first caps and will surely heave profited from the experience.
Yesterday, it was Harlequins goalkeeper Ivan Bateman who prevented the Americans from achieving a clean sweep of victories, although Avoca battler Robbie Ryan was prominent, alongside Lisnagarvey's Alan Dowd and Robbie Taylor in a much improved Irish midfield.