Belgium have measure of Ireland in Cape Town

Mixed results for Craig Fulton’s side during intense 11-day workout in South Africa

Ireland's men got a measure of the challenge they need to overcome in Rio next August after a pair of losses to world number five side Belgium in Cape Town over the weekend.

Craig Fulton's side edged out the Belgians in the group stages of the European Championships last August en route to a bronze medal. That outcome ultimately cost Jeroen Delmee his job as head coach and, under Shane MacLeod, Belgium looked a much more lively force with the Olympics on the horizon.

Ireland fell 6-2 on Saturday, the Belgians pulling clear in the second half after Stu Loughrey and Kirk Shimmins had kept the game close at 3-2.

Sunday was much closer, albeit with a similar final result of 6-3. Alan Sothern's drag-flick and a superb counter attack goal finished off by Mitch Darling tied the game up at 2-2.


It capped a fine period of control from the Irish, winning a series of penalty corners but their good work was undone soon after as two breathtaking pieces of skill at the start of the third quarter turned the game.

Sebastian Dockier and Florent van Aubel moved Belgium clear once again before Shane O'Donoghue whipped home a goal from a corner to reduce the deficit to 4-3.

Killed off

Dockier’s second goal, a deflection into the top corner, and a second from

Tom Boon

killed off the tie at 6-3.

The result came at the end of an intense week of eight matches in 11 days in Cape Town. Importantly, Ireland had the edge over Canada – a side they will play in the group stages in Rio – with two wins and two draws from their four meetings as part of the series.

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

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