No kit, but no malaise in Malaysia
THE Ireland squad, the first team to arrive in Kuala Lumpur yesterday for the World Cup qualifying tournament which starts tomorrow week, found that most of their baggage had been left in Heathrow. Sensibly, they had travelled in track suits, so they were not too uncomfortably attired for their first 24 hours in Malaysia.
"It was only about 85 degrees when we went for a short walk to loosen up," said manager George Compston last night. "All the bags belonging to the Ulster contingent, plus one from Dublin containing our shorts, failed to turn up."
Such an occurrence, of course is nothing new for a team manager. No one was losing any sleep over the missing luggage. "We expect it to be delivered in the morning," said Compston, band we will be kitted out for our first practice session in the evening."
Yesterday's phone call to Kuala Lumpur brought mixed news for the two Dubliners in the squad Nigel Henderson and Colin Hade. For goalkeeper Henderson, there was the boost of hearing of Pembroke Wanderers' handsome 3-0 Leinster Senior League victory over Avoca, as well as a favourable pairing against Railway Union in the Irish Senior Cup on April 5th.
The absence of both Hade and Robbie Ryan was probably a significant factor in the margin of Avoca's defeat at Serpentine Avenue on Saturday. In the first half, Pembroke were largely contained by Trevor Dagg at the top of the circle, and indeed were matched in attack at the start as Enda Gallanagh, particularly, posed a threat.
Although both sides attempted to play total hockey, passes went astray until Pembroke seized the initiative to score twice from short corners early in the second half. Stephen Stewart swept home the first goal, and then laid off the next set-piece for Turlough O Siochain to make it 2-0.
Pembroke then delighted their tifosi with some extravagant moves, notably with mobile defenders Colin Kelly and Allan Kershaw (on his 17th birthday) refreshingly getting involved. For Avoca, too, Graham Dowling was eager to venture from the back band JP Murphy went close to reducing the leeway.
Ultimately, however, Avoca were spent in midfield. Here, the return of Francis de Rosa and Andy Cooke gave Pembroke renewed confidence as they attacked widely, and they were rewarded with a third goal when Simon Kershaw broke clear on the right and delivered a centre for his irrepressible skipper, Devin Donnelly, to get the better of a goal-mouth duel with the exposed Stephen Kinsella.
So, Three Rock Rovers (5-1 winners against Portrane) regain top place in the table from Avoca, with Pembroke well placed in third position, having droped the same number of points (six) as Rovers. Glenanne are still marginally in the chase, though they were pegged back to 4-4 by YMCA before winning 5-4 with a decisive stroke by Stephen Butler at St Mark's.
Much wheeling and dealing remains to be done. Avoca, for example, may seek a postponement of the Monsktown game on March 8th because of an Irish Junior Cup trip to Newry, when Kinsella, Dowling, Gallanagh, David Hanna and young full-back Colm Brady will be required for second XI duty.