Alexander Cox happy to play ugly against the might of Australia

Irish coach Alexander Cox says his side may need to employ a defensive strategy if they are to get something from their opening World Cup tie against champions Australia.

Alexander Cox happy to play ugly against the might of Australia

Irish coach Alexander Cox says his side may need to employ a defensive strategy if they are to get something from their opening World Cup tie against champions Australia (this morning, 11.30am Irish time).

It is the first of three group games in Bhubaneswar but certainly the biggest challenge with very winnable ties against China and England to come.

Ireland have a miserable record against the Australians — losing all nine previous encounters. The Green Machine enter the tie as heavy underdogs for their first appearance in this competition since 1990 and the Irish coach says “game management” will be key.

“It’s our toughest game,” Cox told the Irish Examiner. “They are world number one and really physically strong with a lot of attacking power. We are preparing ourselves for our best possible defensive game.

“We are well prepared but now have to execute to negate their strengths while there are spaces where we know how to hurt them. It’s important we have our game management under control, slowing the game down when needed and then speeding it up when he have the chance. Sometimes it sounds negative but it is needed when you play against the world number one — you can’t always just go and play hockey.”

It’s a well-made point in light of the warm-up games. Against the Netherlands, Ireland were well in the tie at 2-1 but let the game run away from them, conceding five times in 14 minutes.

“That can’t happen here. Sometimes the approach needs to be ugly and we need to recognise it!”

Eugene Magee will play through the pain barrier despite having broken two fingers in the build-up. It means he will extend his record as Ireland’s most capped player having moved ahead of Shirley McCay in recent weeks.

At the other end of the scale, Matthew Nelson, aged 20, will become the youngest Irish player to reach 50 caps. With Magee in place, Cox has reported a clean bill of health, saying his side have suffered no adverse reactions to the local food — something that has caused issues for other teams.

They completed their warm-up with a 1-0 practice game win over Pakistan before enjoying the tournament’s opening ceremony. That was an event unlike anything seen in hockey before, the local Odisha government stumping up $14m (€12.3m) for a spectacular display of lights and interpretative dance.

“It was like a small version of the Olympic Games and it gives it a real feel of a big tournament,” Cox said, relishing the challenge ahead.

The stadium is amazing; the field is nice and new. It’s quite quick in the evenings which we like and whole set-up around it is great with fireworks going off for each goal.

For Australia’s part, coach Colin Batch said his side will “not underestimate Ireland”, adding they are the kind of team “who can cause an upset”.

On home turf, meanwhile, Cork C of I finish their pre-Christmas schedule with a re-fixture against Annadale in the men’s EY Hockey League.

It is an important one for the Garryduff side as they have yet to win in the league in the calendar year, recording eight draws from 11.

In EYHL Division 2, Bandon are on the road to Railway Union for whom Cork men Andrew Colton and Adam O’Callaghan are key players while UCC host high-flying Corinthian.

In the women’s Irish Senior Cup on Saturday, Cork Harlequins face mid-table Ulster Premier League side Banbridge at Farmers’ Cross.

Quins will hopefully be showing their skills in front of a large youth contingent following their excellent 20x20 initiative.

They have produced Panini-style sticker albums of the senior team for the junior section to collect and swap.

Stickers featuring Yvonne O’Byrne and Cliodhna Sargent are understood to be the most coveted.

More in this section

ieStyle Live 2021 Logo
ieStyle Live 2021 Logo

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Discover the great outdoors on Ireland's best walking trails

IE Logo
Outdoor Trails

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day. PS ... We would love to hear your feedback on the section right HERE.

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up