Ireland let two-goal lead slide as Canada claim draw

Ireland coach Craig Fulton confirms he will cut Olympic panel this week

Ireland 2 Canada 2

Craig Fulton confirmed he will be making a significant cut to his Irish panel – most likely from 27 players down to 20 – in the coming week following Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Canada.

He admits it will be the toughest stage in the process. “It’s always hard to make these cuts; guys have committed and put everything in. We just need to get the right balance.”

Their final chance to impress was the last of four matches against the red caribous who Ireland will also play at the Olympic Games group stages in Rio in August.

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The first three Tests had all been won by Ireland before they blew a 2-0 lead late in the game in Santry. Alan Sothern’s corner goal was augmented by Mitch Darling’s classy finish for 2-0.

John Jermyn’s drag-flick could have put the game out of sight but ricocheted off the bar as Ireland threatened to cut loose.

They were pegged back, though, by a slightly farcical Canadian first goal in the third quarter. Ireland's defence were not ready to protect their goal from a penalty corner; Scott Tupper delayed taking a shot, seeing the danger involved, but eventually shot with the ball bouncing off Ronan Gormley's body.

It led to a stroke that Tupper converted. The Canadian captain then set up Mark Pearson for a late equaliser.

Speaking about that fourth tie, Fulton said: “We are happy with the series but we are never happy when there is a game at stake like this. We played well to get to 2-0 and hit the post for a third but, in the last 15, it got a bit messy. All credit to Canada, they came out flying in the last quarter which was a good test for us.

“We had enough chances on the day to do something but we have had a good series and built on each game.”

It added to an encouraging series win against Korea a week earlier. Indeed, it is a far cry from the performances put in against Germany in Hamburg, conceding 21 goals in three games, and Fulton says the side is on the right track.

“The biggest thing with that German series was it was the back end of the club season and we hadn’t spent a lot of time together. Guys had played a national final the day before; it wasn’t great but, at our week in Carton House, after that we reset and started from then. We are now in a good place.”

His side are on a rest week now before picking up again with a six-team tournament in Valencia featuring five other Rio-bound teams.

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

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