Ireland’s World Cup crossover hopes came to a crushing end at the hands of England, leaving them bottom of Pool B in Bhubaneswar.
Ultimately, the missed chances against China on Tuesday will be memories that stuck most in the craw in the list of what might have beens. Any sort of victory there would have seen Alexander Cox’s side through to the knock-out rounds.
“In every game we had the opportunity to get a result,” he said. “Even against Australia, we could have got something. Against China, we should have won with all the chances we had.
“Today, we had a new opportunity but we were not clinical enough in each of the three games.” As it was, there was tension laden throughout the performance, with the Green Machine requiring a draw or better to advance against higher ranked England.
Earlier in the day, Australia showed how it is done when they smashed China 11-0. The result did not change Ireland’s equation but did mean England could afford to draw to go through.
Could two of the fiercest of rivals conjure up the most mutually beneficial result with both sides going through with a tie?
A tepid opening might have suggested so but England soon started to force the issue.
The warning signs came from Liam Ansell and Mark Gleghorne – playing against his younger brother Paul – before David Condon shot home for 1-0 in the 15th minute from Will Calnan’s pull-back.
Ireland had rightful gripes as the turnover to create the English overlap came off Phil Roper’s foot.
Ireland stepped up their game markedly in the second half when all hell broke loose.
From their first fluid attack, they were level, a gorgeous move via Michael Robson, Sean Murray and Chris Cargo whose push for the corner went in with Mitch Darling’s floating stick serving as a key distraction.
It kick-started a run of four goals in three minutes as the Green Machine got level twice but were not able to make parity stick.
Ansell cracked home a superb reverse for 2-1 to England only for Shane O’Donoghue – at the second attempt – to whip in a drag-flick.
Again, Ireland were unable to shut up shop. Liam Sanford was gifted too much time to line up a crash ball and he picked the perfect line for James Gall to deflect into the top corner – 3-2 with 21 minutes remaining.
There were chances aplenty to level once again but they went abegging.
Conor Harte miscued a drag after some confusion at the head of the D while Cargo flashed over a volley after Alan Sothern stung George Pinner’s palm.
That was with six minutes to go and a ragged endgame worked in England’s favour. To rubber-stamp things, Paul Gleghorne went to the sin-bin in a desperate attempt to get the ball back with 20 seconds to go. His older brother Mark, in opposition colours, showed no mercy on the final hooter against an unpadded defensive unit to pour salt in the wounds.
“Heartbroken and so disappointed,” was David Harte’s summation. “I am so proud of how they’ve played but ultimately we’ve come up short. We wanted to get further than we’ve ever done in a World Cup and continue our rise in what we are doing and we have come short.
“It’s the small details at the top level and it’s gut-wrenching right now.”
D Harte, J Bell, C Cargo, A Sothern, E Magee, S O’Donoghue, M Darling, M Robson, P Gleghorne, C Harte, S Loughrey
M Bell, M Nelson, S Murray, D Walsh, L Cole, K Shimmins, D Fitzgerald.
G Pinner, D Ames, H Martin, M Gleghorne, A Dixon, B Middleton, L Ansell, D Condon, J Waller, J Gall, L Sanford
L Taylor, I Sloan, M Hoare, P Roper, W Calnan, Z Wallace, H Gibson.