Spain show Ireland the scale of their task in Rio this summer

Craig Fulton’s experimental squad fail to register a victory in three games

Ireland's post-Rio qualification programme got off to an inauspicious start this week as coach Craig Fulton headed to Spain with a 20-man squad.

Falling 3-1 to the home team in the final match, with no wins in the other two games, at least shows Ireland where they need to be aiming.

It's a little early for any panic but the Olympic Games will throw up tougher teams that the Spanish, who are currently ranked 11th in the World to Ireland's 12.

In that context it was a disappointing end to the series even though the squad was a mixture of youth and experience.


Fulton utilised his extended panel and was without no fewer than eight of the players who won the bronze medal at the European Championships in August.

Defensive error

The first goal came early as a result of a defensive error that caught Three Rock Rovers goalkeeper

Jamie Carr

wrong-footed. Spain continued to maintain control and increased the lead to 2-0 by half-time.

In the last moments of the third quarter Jonny Bruton set up a reverse shot where the perfectly positioned Gareth Watkins was waiting on the post to tap home for 2-1.

But Spain scored their third goal for 3-1 and despite two late penalty corners for Ireland the scoreline finished that way.

“These three games against Spain are very important for us moving forward into 2016,” said coach Fulton.

“We played well in some phases in each game but not well enough for 60 minutes. We’re now looking forward to our preparation phase in South Africa”.

Ireland will travel to South Africa for warm weather training in January where the team will face several higher-ranked national teams.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times