With an Olympic qualifier ticket confirmed, when the Irish men reflect on their week’s work in Le Touquet, their outlook will probably prove far more upbeat than their exit from the Eric Choteau field after a chastening 3-1 loss to France in the FIH Series final.
Saturday’s 4-2 win over Korea – their first ever over the Asian side in a ranking event – assured a top two
finish and ticket to the Olympic qualifiers later this year.
But coach Alexander Cox lamented a below par performance 24 hours later as the French, bolstered by a boisterous Sunday evening crowd enjoying the 28 degree heat, showed another level.
Victor Charlet’s two penalty corner goals separated the sides after Blaise Rogeau and Sean Murray traded strikes in the first half.
Cox, though, said the performance was one that let him down after the heroics against Korea.
“Of course it will look better in a week’s time because we have qualifed but the last game that you play is always the one you remember,” Cox said as Ireland missed out on a bump in world ranking points that could bring a more favourable Tokyo playoff in October.
“So it pisses me off that we could do it yesterday but didn’t today.”
France hit the ground running with Viktor Lockwood wreaking havoc down the left.
His groundwork created the chance for Blaise Rogeau to thrash home a 10th minute lead goal. Ireland replied well with Sean Murray finding plenty of shooting space, one which goalkeeper Arthur Thieffry head-butted with nonchalance, another spectacular one hitting the post.
And he was the man to tie things up on the quarter-time whistle when Ben Walker – a strong shout for young player of the tournament – weaved some space on the left baseline to set up a tap-in at the right post.
During this phase, Michael Robson was driving on with plenty of force but it was the French who looked the more forceful with Charles Masson irrepressible.
They went back in front from their third penalty corner via Charlet with sevent minutes to go to the big break.
The towering defender was at it again five minutes into the second half and Ireland never really had an answer as they ran out of steam in the second half. But for Paul Gleghorne’s typically last-ditch save off the line and Rogeau’s outrageous open goal miss in the dying seconds, it might have been more.
IRELAND: D Harte, J Jackson, J Bell, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, B Walker, D Walsh, C Harte, L Cole, S Cole
Subs: M Bell, L Madeley, M Nelson, N Glassey, M Robson, P Gleghorne, J Carr
FRANCE: A Thieffry, P van Straaten, T Genestet, H Genestet, V Lockwood, C Masson, G Baumgarten, F Goyet, V Charlet