Win-or-bust for Ireland and Argentina

Winners of Friday night’s clash in Rio will advance to the quarter-finals. The losers go home

Ireland 4 Canada 2

The history-maker Olympic dream remains alive and kicking after a memorable 4-2 win over Canada, the first for Irish hockey at the Olympic Games since 1908 and a first win for any denomination of Irish team sport since 1948.

After a rampaging first half, leading 3-0, the red caribous piled forward in the second half to get two goals back only for Mitch Darling to seal the deal with four minutes left.

An hour later, Germany then nicked a 4-4 draw against Argentina with an equaliser six seconds from time, a result that means Ireland can overhaul the South Americans on Friday evening when they meet at 11.30pm (Irish time). Victory would secure a quarter-final berth.


“It’s great to make another piece of history for Irish hockey,” Darling said of the moment that clinched the green machine’s victory. “To be part of it individually and collectively. We’re delighted with the win but it means nothing now if we can’t back it up against Argentina.”

Learning the lessons of previous games, Ireland's penalty corner routine worked a treat. Just 56 seconds had elapsed when Shane O'Donoghue flung a shot over the head of the diminutive David Carter.

He repeated the trick in the 28th minute, again going high much to the delight of coach Craig Fulton who said afterwards he specifically targetted the higher parts of the net based on reconnaissance work done in June.

For good measure, Peter Caruth scored an opportunistic third on the stroke of half-time. He dove full length to sweep in a sharp chance created from a brilliant left wing move that culminated in Mikey Watt's clever first-time shot.

At 3-0, Fulton repeatedly implored his side to control the ball but Canada - also with their tournament life on the line - burst back into the tie when star man Scott Tupper was left unmarked to thump home from the top of the circle.

He was in the sin-bin for Ireland’s second and third goals and seemed on a personal mission to make amends and doubled his tally with a ripper of a drag-flick with 10 minutes to go.

Either side of that, Ronan Gormley and Eugene Magee were required to make vital saves off the line as Ireland rode their luck.

But, from rare relief, Watt and Chris Cargo would not let an attack die and Mitch Darling got enough of a nudge on the ball from close range to clear the line. He will scarcely score a more important goal in his international tally of 46.

Indeed, coach Fulton added it was a special day for Irish hockey: “The first Olympic win, three points. It’s huge. We deserved it.

“We have been pushing hard for four games and everyone can see the lads are leaving it all on the field. We were under pressure at the end of course but it’s the last quarter of an Olympic pool game and everything counts. Chuffed, so proud of everyone.”

Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, E Magee, S O'Donoghue, M Darling, K Good, P Gleghorne, C Harte

Subs: J Bell, A Sothern, J Jermyn, P Caruth, K Shimmins

Canada: D Carter, S Tupper, D Teixeira, G Ho-Garcia, K Pereira, J Gill, A Froese, G Johnston, M Pearson, M Sarmento, S Panesar

Subs: B Martin, B Bissett, I Smythe, M Guest, T Curran

Umpires: N Stagno, M Servetto

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

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