KINSALE’S CONOR HARTE was on target as the Irish men’s hockey team went down 3-2 in their Olympic Games’ Group B opener against India in Rio on Saturday.
India’s greater set-piece accuracy gave Ireland a harsh lesson in their first Olympic hockey match for 108 years as three penalty corner goals to two told the tale in Deodoro this morning in intense heat.
For head coach Craig Fulton, he put it down to “accuracy” as Ireland matched and outdid the eight-time Olympic champions for many periods.
“We just didn’t take our chances today,” he said after the tie.
“It ebbed and flowed for three quarters and we finished strong in the last quarter after John Jermyn’s goal. We were playing well and had a good few chances but were just not accurate enough.’
An excellent save from Irish goalkeeper and captain David Harte kept India out early on but goals from VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh gave India a 2-0 lead at half-time.
Fulton’s side kept creating chances with O’Donoghue firing over before Jermyn found the backboard with his 91st international goal, a low bullet.
It set up an epic final 15 minutes; Rupinder Pal Singh restored the two-goal wedge with a drag that popped off John Jackson’s knee at a vicious speed.
Conor Harte pulled one back with five minutes left when he beat a man off a corner spin-move and then volleying home when the second tackle popped up chest-high.
Ireland were hunting in packs at this stage, hungry for the equaliser. It almost came from a sixth Irish corner but O’Donoghue’s flick went inches past the right post.
Reflecting further on the result, Fulton says it is just those final details the side need to rectify as the fixtures go on this week.
“You have got to be a realist; it’s not like you are playing in a club match. There’s a lot at stake but we’ll be back. Looking behind the result, I see some really good things but it came down to set pieces.
“Tomorrow, we are fully focussed on the Netherlands and getting a result from that. For now, less is more in terms of training and I think we are in an ok place.”
Ireland play the world number two ranked Dutch at 10pm Irish time (5pm in Brazil) tomorrow. The Dutch opened their account with a 3-3 draw against Argentina.
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, M Watt, C Cargo, J Jermyn, P Caruth, S O’Donoghue, M Darling, P Gleghorne, C Harte
Subs: J Bell, A Sothern, E Magee, K Shimmins, K Good
India: PR Sreejesh, H Singh, K Khadangbam, S Kumar, M Singh, S Singh, VR Raghunath, SK Uthappa, D Mujtaba, SV Sunil, A Singh
Subs: R Singh, D Walmiki, C Kangujam, R Singh, C Thimmaiah