Ireland’s European survival hopes hang tentatively in the balance after another nightmare first quarter cost them dear against England in Antwerp.
It leaves them needing a favour from the English tomorrow and then a win over Wales – possibly by a couple of goals – to have any chance of staying up.
Like the earlier matches against the Netherlands and Germany, Alexander Cox’s side were playing catch-up from the start, falling 2-0 down by just the 12th minute as Zach Wallace and Phil Roper struck in quick succession.
Michael Robson – one of the bright lights in a below par week for the Green Machine – did slip home a wonderful 21st minute goal from Eugene Magee’s pass.
But it was the sole incision Ireland were able to make into a compact England rearguard who won each one-on-one duel around the edge of their circle. It meant a huge amount of possession translated into only one last-minute penalty corner and a smattering of unthreatening circle entries.
As such, despite an intense second half, goalkeeper George Pinner was not forced to make a meaningful stop as his penalty corner defence gobbled up Shane O’Donoghue’s sole drag-flick. Reflecting on the tie, a crestfallen O’Donoghue lamented yet another slow start.
It did give us a mountain to climb. We lost it in that 15 minutes, no doubt about it, and it’s a recurring theme this tournament, something we have to find some solution to or it will be the B division.
It leaves Ireland with just one point from two games played in the relegation pool with two out of four teams set to go down.
England sit on four points where they are joined by the Scots thanks to a 4-2 win over Wales. Those two sides meet tomorrow while Ireland will hope they do not play out a mutually beneficial draw to relegate the greens along with the Welsh who play later in the day.
Should the door be left open for Ireland, anything less than a win will see them relegated in any case for the first time since 2009.
The Irish women, meanwhile, can assure their safety should they beat their Belgian hosts (2.45pm, Irish time). Lose and their fate goes down to the wire on Sunday against Belarus.
J Jackson, J Bell, E Magee, K Shimmins, S O’Donoghue, M Robson, B Walker, D Walsh, P Gleghorne, C Harte, M Ingram Subs: J Carr, T Cross, S Murray, J Duncan, L Cole, S Loughrey, S Cole