The Green Machine have booked their place at the 2018 World Cup in India with a 1-0 victory over New Zealand.
It was a cagey affair throughout with the sides exchanging early chances, Chris Cargo and Alan Sothern linking up smartly for the Irish. Both sides seemed happy to hold onto possession and wait for the gaps to appear with Ireland winning the first of the penalty corners, but Richard Joyce was alert to Shane O’Donoghue’s drag. Joyce was again called on to make an important interception as Neal Glassey fired a pass into the circle to the waiting Matthew Nelson. Eugene Magee slipped awkwardly, rolling his ankle, and didn’t return to the game, meaning the Irish bent was down 2 players given Johnny McKee’s fractured collarbone earlier in the tournament. The first real chance for New Zealand fell to Hugo Inglis who’s reverse shot ricocheted off the crossbar while moments later John Jackson, rock solid throughout, made an important deflection from a PC. Neither keeper had much to do in the opening half and the superb defensive efforts by both sides was mirrored in the stats that showed nothing between them.
New Zealand began to tip the stats in their favour in the second half and David Harte was called into action with a fine double save. Harte was certainly the busier of the two keepers in the final 30 minutes but New Zealand just lacked that final clinical touch. The tight nature of the game suggested one moment of magic would be enough and Alan Sothern was on hand to produce just that for Ireland. In the 49th minute he pounced on a rebounded save and flicked the ball over Devon Manchester, who had replaced Joyce had half time. New Zealand put Shea McAleese on as kicking back and won two further penalty corners but the precision just wasn’t there and the Irish defence calmly cleared their lines.
A huge defensive effort from the Green Machine combined with Sothern’s goal seals their spot at the 2018 World Cup in India.
Head coach Craig Fulton said “It was a tight game and it could have gone either way. It was a win built on character and defence basically won us that game. We wanted to come away with qualification and that’s really pleasing from tonight, it was a great squad effort”.
Ireland: D Harte, J Jackson, M Bell, C Cargo, M Nelson, A Sothern, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, P Gleghorne, C Harte, S Cole
Subs: J Carr, J Bell (Captain), N Glassey, S Murray, J Duncan, S Loughrey, J McKee (Injured)
New Zealand: N Haig, N Ross, R Joyce, N Woods, B Tarrant (Captain), A Panchia, S McAleese, S Jenness, H Inglis, G Muir, H Phillips
Subs: D Brydon, S Lane, M Child, J Panchia, D Manchester, K Russell, L Mitai Wells