Ireland fall to Japan as hockey World Cup build-up continues

Strange run of constant fixtures against Japanese opponents continues with 2-1 defeat

Ireland 1 Japan 2

Ireland completed their World Cup preparations with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Japan in the fourth fixture of this week’s SoftCo Series at Belfield.

Síofra O’Brien’s first international strike from close range was outdone by efforts from Mai Toriyama in the first minute and a spectacular winner from Yuri Nagai in a crackling first half.

Like the majority of the other meetings this week, Ireland held the sway for much of the territorial and possession elements but Japan won the clinches in either circle with a serious defensive intensity.


For coach Sean Dancer, he was frustrated his young side could not eke out cleaner chances to make the difference in front of a capacity home crowd.

“We just didn’t have enough consistency and do the things we needed to do well enough,” he said, reflecting on the uncapped series.

“They hurt us with their outletting and we didn’t control that well enough. We are progressing with our attacking game but we need to put more chances away.

“It’s about us taking the lessons. Japan defend really well but we need to be better as an attacking group.”

It concludes a strange phase for Ireland, meeting Japan eight times in a three-week period, four times in Okayama, four in Dublin.

That is a result of the influence of the FIH Pro League which has taken nine of the world’s leading sides out of circulation for test matches.

And so Dancer is, in equal measures, frustrated not to get more variety to the build-up but, on the flip side delighted to have got this run of games against a world number 10 side in peak form.

“I am disappointed in the Pro League. Where we are, we can’t get games. I ring every coach and they can’t commit - their programmes are just too heavy and it really doesn’t help us.

“But these Japan games never got stale and the play a style of hockey which we want to be able to execute and compete against. It shows why we were so happy to beat them last Sunday and it showed some rewards for the hard work we have been doing.”

The Irish players will now take in three rest days before flying out to Amsterdam for the World Cup next Monday with a hit-out against India serving as final tuning.

Dancer says, despite a couple of facial injuries to Naomi Carroll and Deirdre Duke, the side came through this physical test in good health and ready to face the Netherlands on Saturday, July 2nd.

Earlier in the day, Ireland’s Under-23 side beat Ukraine 3-0 with final quarter goals from Ellen Reid, Leah O’Shea and Mikayla Power. They finish their group stage of the Uniphar Five Nations against USA on Saturday morning at 11am.

Ireland: A McFerran, S McAuley, S Hawkshaw, K Mullan, H McLoughlin, S Torrans, L Tice, N Carroll, C Perdue, K McKee, E Curran

Subs: M Carey, R Upton, C Beggs, S O’Brien, D Duke, C Hamill, Z Malseed

Japan: A Tanaka, Y Asai, M Suzuki, Y Nagai, H Nagai, S Oikawa, M Kozuka, M Segawa, S Kobayakawa, M Toriyama,, A Shimada

Subs: E Nakamura, N Matsumoto, M Tsubouchi, K Mori, M Kawamura, K Urata, S Omoto

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about hockey