Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Champion's Challenge: Ireland 3 Japan 0

Group A: Ireland 3 (John Jermyn 2, Mikey Watt) Japan 0

What a difference a day makes. The indecision and individual errors that characterised Monday night’s match with Chile all but dissipated as Ireland eased into the semi-finals of the Champion’s Challenge II at Belfield last night.

The 3-0 score-line was the only similarity between the performance against tournament top seeds Japan and bottom ranked Chile as notice of a different outlook was served inside 15 seconds.

Mikey Watt burst into the Japanese circle with the ball flaring up to be batted home by John Jermyn though a whistle had blown for a free-out. Nonetheless, an infinitely more purposeful attitude saw Japan take over five minutes to get out of their half with the ball.

When the goals came, John Jermyn was once again tormentor in chief. Mitch Darling expertly won the first corner of the game - his first act after coming off the bench - in the 11th minute which the Corkonian duly zipped into the bottom left corner.

Seven minutes later he repeated the trick, maintaining Ireland’s 100pc record in the tournament from the set-piece.

Indeed, the home side’s danger from corners was not solely confined to their offensive efforts. The three conceded on the evening all led to fluid break-outs, the first of which made it 3-0 five minutes before the break.

Johnny Jackson stole the ball at the top of his own circle; Stephen Butler - Ireland's most experienced player at his bullish best, facing the side he made his debut against - added the forward impetus, sharing a pass with Watt, to create a three-on-three and eventually got the chance to shoot on his reverse.

In truth, the shot was miscued but Watt was alive to the chance and scrambled through Katsuya Takase’s legs. From Japan’s second penalty corner, a similar break-out fashioned a chance for Butler 80 metres from where Yuta Fukushiro mis-trapped.

The second half proved less productive as the inexperienced Japanese attempted a more aggressive press than their passive, half-court first period. It led to increased niggle with Naoto Shiokawa, Joe Brennan, Jermyn and Graham Shaw all seeing green cards.

With Jermyn subsequently substituted, three corner chances went without reward as Butler and Sothern both tried their luck to no avail. Timmy Cockram’s reverse cross escaped Alan Sothern’s slide while Eugene Magee stumbled slightly as he struck a breaking ball wide.

Japan rallied late on. Ryuti Furusato drew a point-blank save off David Harte’s foot. His skills also caused bedlam down the left end-line, leaving Ronan Gormley to probably take the best option of a clumsy foul to prevent a free shot with Harte scrambling to cover the vacant goal.

The ensuing drag-flick was dismissed with apparent disdain by the towering goalkeeper. He was caught out of position once but for the second day in a row Tim Lewis calmly cleared a potentially fraught situation and ensure a clean sheet.

Speaking afterwards, Irish coach Paul Revington was pleased his side’s performance had stepped up after a nervy first game, though he hoped for a couple more goals.

“It was a damn sight better than yesterday [against Chile]. This should be a standard performance. If we perform well we should be scoring five or six goals, in my opinion in games like this, but this is the kind of performance I expect.”

Poland were also confirmed as semi-final qualifiers due to this result combined with their 3-1 win over Chile. Thursday’s match will now solely decide semi-final seedings.

Group A standings (points/goal difference): 1. Ireland 6pts (+6) 2. Poland 6pts (+2) 3= Japan 0pts (-4) 3= Chile 0pts (-4)

* For more of Adrian Boehm's photos from Ireland vs Japan, click here


Anonymous said...

Thought it was a good performance by the irish last night. The work rate was very impressive and the sharpness to eliminate any potential danger if a break occured was good.
The japanese were a touch unlucky with a few refing decisions but they also didn't help themselves when they messed up opportunities created.
A comfortable victory and nice to see the team looking like they were purposeful throughout.

Queso said...

Well done guys... Great win against the top ranked side in the tournament and you are now really in the driving seat to secure a good semi-final draw against those Frenchies!!!

Anonymous said...

eh just want to know is this a weakened japanese team or is it the full selection.

Stephen Findlater said...

July 8, 2009 2:16 PM

Whilst I'll admit not having a huge knowledge on Japanese hockey - maybe John Blakeney can help me out here - here are a couple of statistics.

Yesterday's side featured six players with under 10 caps. In total, their side has roughly 400 caps in total in contrast to Ireland's 915 at the start of the tournament. In general, Japan play less internationals per year.

Anonymous said...

findo, wots the story with player transfers and coaching appointments havnt heard of any in ages?

Stephen Findlater said...

Basically, as far as I'm aware all ten men's division clubs have coaches installed with the moves noted on the site. As for division two and the ladies clubs I've heard a few stories but until clubs confirm to me, I will not post a story.

As for player transfers, I've mentioned this in three comment chains already but I will not be posting speculation. If clubs have done their paperwork and confirm a move to me then I will post info but, as many of the stories I have received have not been confirmed, then I will not post any stories.

The nature of transfers in Leinster hockey means that players are liable to regularly change their mind, right up to the final week before the season starts as has happened especially in the past two seasons.

Stephen Findlater said...

In respnse to the earlier query about the level of the Japan team, I have a bit more info to add.

The squad met their new coach, Siegfried Aikman - a coach of Andy McConnell during his time in Hurley - a week before the event for the first time and they've had two days training together.

The side is building specifically for London 2012, with their training gear all embroidered with "Road to London 2012". As such, the team is one in development with four players making their debuts.