Saturday, August 1, 2009

EuroHockey Nation's Trophy: Ireland 2 Belarus 1

Ireland 2 (John Jermyn, Alan Sothern) Belarus 1 (Ivan Kisialevich)
It was hardly a thing of beauty but Ireland got their EuroHockey Nation's Trophy campaign off to a winning start with a laboured 2-1 win over Belarus in Wrexham this morning.

The Belarussians - with one online bookmaker offering 12/1 for them to win the game - took advantage of a sluggish start, dominating the opening 18 minutes, taking the lead from their second corner through Ivan Kisliavich.

Ireland had offered little prior to that point but the goal awoke them from their daze and within four minutes the lead had swapped hands.

John Jermyn saw his first corner deflected over by a diving Siarhei Lihor's stick but a second effort within 30 seconds levelled the game at 1-1. Alan Sothern created and scored the next corner in the 23rd minute and that was the end of the day's scoring.

Thereafter, Belarus did not have a shot in anger as Ireland grew more composed. Numerous scoring opportunities came and went in the second half as Belarus - with only 13 outfield players in their squad tired badly, making errors passing the ball out of defence.

Eugene Magee was denied by a fast out-rushing Lihor early in the second half with a superb Yauhen Cherapanau tackle preventing the follow-up. More cohesive attacks drew clear shooting opportunities. Timmy Cockram cracked the side-board; Jermyn's shot was deflected wide by Cherepanau while Mitch Darling's reverse-stick cross just evaded the sliding Alan Giles.

Bealrus' play became more aimless with a series of overheads going into play. It invited Ireland forward and their best move saw David Hobbs, Darling and Cockram exchange neat passes in the circle with Giles' touch going under Lihor but was cleared to safety by a covering defender six minutes from time.

Jermyn's half-hit shot was taken out of the goal by Aliaksandr Radzivinovich and while an assuring two-goal lead never came, Belarus played half-court all the way to the final whistle, meaning an equaliser was scarcely on the cards.

Ireland: D Harte, R Gormley (capt), T Lewis, J Brennan, J Jackson, S Butler, D Hobbs, J Jermyn, A Sothern, E Magee, T Cockram Subs: G McCabe, M Darling, A Giles, C Harte, G Shaw

* For photos from today's game taken by Fidopics, click here