Watt tenacity pays off as Irish stay on course

Ireland overcame a potential banana skin in work-manlike fashion as they dispatched Chile last night to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for a first Olympics since 1908.

Mikey Watt’s second-half double eventually eased Irish fears they might be sucker-punched by the South Americans, and ensures they head into tomorrow’s crunch clash with Malaysia needing just a draw to advance to Sunday’s final.

Competition favourites Korea are their likely opponents after they survived a Malaysian comeback to win 3-2 in the earlier game. A positive result against Russia tomorrow will put them into the decider.

Ireland could easily have matched the 12-goal tally they racked up against Ukraine last Sunday here, but their penalty corner routines failed to fire as John Jermyn had an off-day with his drag-flicks, while a slew of chances from play also went unrewarded.

It left another packed house at Belfield somewhat muted at times, but coach Paul Revington suggested the tally on the scoreboard wasn’t an issue for him.

“The way the guys played was more consistent today [than Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Korea]. When you score a lot of goals in a tournament, sometimes people who come to watch get a bit greedy.

“We’ve had a lot of shots on goal and penalty corners and the key thing is scoring enough of them to win. We’ve got faith in all the penalty corner guys in our group to be able to turn it around against Malaysia.”

Chile have belied their lowly world ranking of 26 to be competitive at this tournament, but despite Sven Richter’s pre-game Twitter pronouncements that his side were “going to destroy the green machine”, they came here to defend.

That forced Ireland to attempt to manoeuvre through masses of bodies to get to the circle, something man of the match Watt insisted Ireland are used to by now.

“We’ve played in many games like that before,” he said. “Like in the Europeans [last year] against France, we were knocking at the door the whole time. We stick to our process and game plan, keep going and it finally breaks down and we always manage to score.”

Goalkeeper David Harte was rendered a virtual spectator as Ireland overcame the loss of his twin brother Conor — ruled out after sustaining a head injury on Tuesday — and prevented the visitors taking a single shot on goal.

The hosts had Chile chasing shadows in the first quarter and were rewarded in the fourth minute when Timmy Cockram dragged their first short corner to the backboard.

But with Ireland’s set-piece malfunctioning thereafter and Chile netminder Mathias Anwandter in unforgiving mood, it took until the 44th minute for more breathing space to arrive via Watt’s two-goal salvo.

He drifted left to right across the top of the circle before turning sharply and smashing a forehand effort to the backboard for the first. Jermyn then did well to keep Cockram’s pass in play before squaring for Watt to find the gap at the near post.

Close to a dozen Irish opportunities came and went without further troubling the scoreboard as the game petered out.

IRELAND: D Harte (GK); J Jackson (capt), R Gormley, P Gleghorne, S Loughrey; G McCabe, D Ames, E Magee; M Watt, M Darling, T Cockram.

Rolling subs: C Cargo, J Jermyn, P Caruth, A McConnell, I Sloan.

CHILE: M Anwandter (GK); A Fuenzalida, J Zirpel, JP Purcell, J Zarhi; C Rodriguez (capt), M Rodriguez, A Berzcely; S Richterm F Binder, J Richter.

Rolling subs: LF Montegu, I Gajardo, P Kohler, J Berzcely, R Achondo.

Umpires: G Uyttenhove (Belgium) & J Shaikh (India).

STANDINGS (goal difference): 1. Ireland 10pts (+20) 2. Korea 10pts (+12) 3. Malaysia 9pts (+11) 4. Russia 6pts (-6) 5. Chile 0pts (-13) 6. Ukraine 0pts (-24)

TOMORROW: Korea v Russia, 10am; Chile v Ukraine, 12.30pm; Ireland v Malaysia, 3pm.

SUNDAY: Classification games: 5th/6th play-off, 11am; 3rd/4th play-off, 1.30pm; Final, 4pm.


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