By Will Downing
Ireland bowed out of the Olympic men’s hockey with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Argentina in Deodoro, sending the Green Machine out of the competition.
Unlocked by a trademark Argentine penalty corner routine after six minutes – the goal scored by Juan Saladino on the rebound from a Davey Harte save of Gonzalo Peillat’s strike – Ireland found themselves under pressure early on.
Indeed, seconds before the opener, Irish keeper Harte denied a similar set-piece struck by Peillat. It’s been their best weapon of the tournament.
The final three minutes of the first quarter saw three more Peillat penalty corners saved, including a tremendous double-save from Harte, plus a fourth from Pedro Ibarra, but it remained just 1-0 by the end of the period.
Ireland were to benefit from a penalty corner themselves as John Jermyn converted to bring the men in green level after 24 minutes, in the aftermath of Shane O’Donoghue having a penalty corner saved, leading to the successful set-piece.
However, within two minutes, Peillat had netted again from a penalty corner to put Argentina 2-1 up at half-time, and there would be no change heading into the final quarter, meaning a major turnaround was required to keep Ireland in the competition.
And for a while, it looked as if it would come. Shane O’Donoghue belting a low drive from another penalty corner to bring Ireland level with nine minutes to go.
But just when it looked as if the Irish had some hope of reaching the quarter-finals, it was dashed again – same script, same lead actor.
Peillat’s finish from a penalty corner condemned Ireland to a fourth defeat in five games and elimination, despite the bold step of bringing on Eugene McGee for goalkeeper Davey Harte to have eleven outfield players on the pitch for the closing stages. But the comeback would not be achieved.