Rio 2016: Green Machine narrowly beaten by India

Ireland give India a scare but unable to claim a share of the spoils

India 3 Ireland 2

Ireland paid dearly for a set piece routine that just didn't fire in their historic opening match of the Olympic Games against India. It was the first time an Irish hockey team made the Games since London 1906 and a Pool B game that coach Craig Fulton's side could have drawn or won.

But it fell away from Ireland despite an 8-6 penalty count in their favour. All three Indian goals in the 3-2 win came from penalty corners with both of Ireland’s also coming from the set piece. In the modern game those were critical lapses from Ireland.

"We beat ourselves. Very disappointed. If you look at the chances we created and we just weren't clinical enough with our conversions. At the end of the day that's reflected on the scoreboard," said Irish goalkeeper David Harte.


“We are going to have to improve on that. Playing the number five side in the world scoring two goals and as I said we’re bitterly disappointed coming away without a victory.”

It was a scorching day in the Deodora complex with temperatures in the stands touching 34 degrees. But Ireland didn’t wilt. Rather a few errant drag flicks, especially in a final spell of the game when they were pressing for the equaliser, sailed high and wide, another in the first half missing low outside the post.

India had the better of the opening exchanges as Ireland played the opening phases conservatively. But the defence with Connor Harte and goalkeeper David and John Jackson were composed and able.

India, incredibly fast on the break with Akashdeep Singh a menace on the counter attack or in space, were largely held in play by Ireland but in Rupinder Singh, they had a deadly marksman at the set piece and he won the match for India with two of their three goals.

VR Raghunath's low drag flick on their fourth corner put India 1-0 ahead with just a second remaining in the first quarter. It came shortly after Peter Carruth had blazed one over the bar from play and minutes before Eugene Magee was to do the same.

But India played for their corners and after 27 minutes another came when a cross nicked Paul Gleghone’s foot for the left back Rupinder to roof the first of his two for 2-0.

At that stage another goal might have allowed India run away with it but Ireland remained game and patient with John Jermyn converting from Ireland's fourth corner for 2-1.

When Ramanddep Singh put the ball onto Harte's foot in the 49th minute Rupinder stepped up again, Irish line man Jackson escaping with his head intact as the ball fizzled past for 3-1.

It was Kirk Shimmins who raised the Irish tempo and cut the Indian defence with his circle penetrations down the left in the closing spell twice taking on the Indian defenders and drawing corners.

Harte pulled Ireland back to 3-2, dribbling in at a corner and swatting the stick deflected ball in five minutes from time. Suddenly Ireland had momentum in their best phase of the last quarter.

But the set pieces were not as sharp as they should or could have been, Rory O’Donoghue’s effort and Ireland’s eighth penalty corner still rising as it went high and wide. In a game of set pieces Ireland must now prepare for the even greater threat of the Dutch on Sunday.

We are just going to have to reassess and see what we can improve on,” added Harte. “Obviously playing against the number two side in the world is never going to be easy. If we can get our defensive level as we usually have, right on the day, then we should be fine.”

Ireland: D Harte, C Harte, R Gormley, J Jackson, P Gleghorne, J Jermyn, M Darling, C Cargo, P Carruth, S O'Donoghue, A Sothern. Rolling subs: M Watt, J Bell, E Magee, K Shimmins, Kyle Good.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times