Rio 2016: Ireland go down to defending champions Germany

Craig Fulton’s side must now look to Canada and Argentina after suffering third straight loss

Germany 3 Ireland 2

On the face of it three defeats from three matches looks on paper that Ireland's first Olympic Games in several generations has been doomed.

In reality this is probably where Ireland were always going to find themselves and after rattling the Germans in the closing stages, Craig Fulton believes his Irish side is improving.

The Germans are the defending Olympic champions and anything other than a win would have been a tournament shock but Ireland's surge at the end combined with excellent goalkeeping from Davy Harte and the Irish defence and two glorious strikes in play from Eugene McGee and Mitch Darling put Ireland in a position at the close where they could have fleetingly believed a draw was a realistic outcome.


“We are disappointed. We had had chances to win,” said Ireland’s Mikey Watt. “We gave a couple of sloppy enough goals way. There are always opportunities when you look back over the game.

“But the next two games are the ones that matter. We are looking for six points. We knew Canada was must win. We knew we had to take three points from either India or Argentina. We missed out on India so three points against Canada and three against Argentina may do it for us.”

Ireland were strongest in the third and fourth quarters which has been a feature of their play and conditioning. But against the Germans that wasn’t enough in a match goalkeeper Harte was called into play on numerous occasions. In the first half alone Germany had 11 attempts on goal, more than half of those requiring the goalkeeper’s intervention.

But once again it was set pieces that forced Ireland into a chasing game just as they had done against the Dutch and India in the opening matches.

It took German captain Mauritz Furste 13 minutes to put his side ahead, his low drag on their first penalty corner hitting the backboard beyond the reach of the line men and Harte.

Germany built on that and pressing Ireland they earned a couple more short corners but Harte was up to it thanks to one foot save and one handed away. Then when McGee picked up in the circle he made space, turned and backhanded a drill past goalkeeper Nicolas Jackobi for 1-1.

Ireland were never outplayed in the match but they were squeezed by Germany’s full court press, although the players managed well to free up space.

But nine minutes into the second half a lazy Irish stick tackle handed Germany another set piece and their captain Furste put this one mid height between Harte’s stick and head for 2-1.

That was Germany's best phase and three minutes from the end of the third quarter they struck again, this time from play when Martin Zwicker found himself well placed to straight bat an Irish clearance past the committed Harte for 3-1.

But Ireland finished strongly and despite Zwicker and Alan Sothern going into the bin for a few minutes, Conor Harte picked out Mitch Darling in the German circle from the right. Darling turned and like McGee before him connected beautifully with a backhand two minutes from the end for 3-2.

That’s how it ended, Ireland on the up against the third ranked team in the world but with their post mortem once more being conducted on a defeat.

“It was close. We took it to the wire,” said Irish coach Craig Fulton. “We’re really disappointed. We wanted the point. We needed the point. We wanted seven points, So, that means we had to get something out of today’s game. That didn’t happen.

“We had a few good chances,” added Fulton. “They’re coming and I hope they come at the right time. We are definitely getting better. They are different teams and we set up differently for each team but today we were able to keep our discipline. It was hot. It was a tough one and we had them rattled there which was beautiful.”

Ireland faces Canada next after a day of rest before they face Argentina in the final pool match. In the world rankings the Canadians are 15 to Ireland’s 12 with Argentina ranked seven.

“Canada and Argentina are pretty much must-wins for us,” added the coach. “They are lifelines to stay in the group. They are lifelines and you need six points to finish fourth. I think that will be enough. I don’t know but that’s all we have to go for now and that’s what we will target.”

IRELAND: D Harte, Jackson, Gormley, C Harte, Gleghorne M Watt, Jermyn, Magee, Shimmins, Darling, Good. Subs: Bell, Cargo, Sothern, Carruth, O'Donoghue.

GERMANY: Jacobi, Muller, Butt, Haner, Grambusch, Wesley, Hawke, Ruhr, Furste, Fuchs, Oruz. Subs: Trompertz, Herzbruch, T Grambusch, Zwicker, Wellen.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times