Ben Walker stars as Ireland one win away from Hockey World Cup 

Walker swooped in the first five minutes of each half with close-range finishes to left-wing crosses to make the difference.
Ben Walker stars as Ireland one win away from Hockey World Cup 

Ireland's Ben Walker celebrates scoring his side's second goal. Picture: INPHO/Ashley Crowden

Ireland 2 (B Walker 2) Russia 0

Ben Walker’s double put Ireland within one win of the 2023 World Cup as they got the best of Russia 2-0 in Cardiff with a composed defensive performance.

Walker swooped in the first five minutes of each half with close-range finishes to left-wing crosses to make the difference.

Around that, Ireland were cool and calm at the back with Jamie Carr recording a clean sheet with some robust stops while the likes of Conor Harte, Kyle Marshall and Lee Cole left precious little through.

It means a win on Saturday against either Wales of Italy would stamp the Green Machine ticket to India 2023 and in that context, Walker described it as “a perfect start but only have the job is done”.

“We have a bit of time to recover and it is hard to get too excited over one game because it will mean nothing if we don’t see it through then.

“We were very solid at the back and Jamie [Carr] did pull off some fantastic saves which kept us 1-0 in the first half. We had a good mindset, took our chances when they came and probably could have had one or two more.”

It took just four minutes to get up and running with a brilliant turnover 60-metres out from goal was transformed into a rangy run from John McKee. He drifted left before clipping across goal where Walker was crouching low to deflect home.

Conor Empey – in his tournament debut – flashed over another chance soon after before Russia settled, aiming to deploy their counter-attacks from distance. They also drew a first corner which Tim Cross charged down well.

Alexey Sobolevskiy went inches wide with another chance but, by and large, Ireland were absorbing their attacks with relative comfort and they carried the 1-0 lead into half-time.

One became two in the 33rd minute, this time Shane O’Donoghue was the creator with a quick free down the left corner and he picked a fine angle for his cross. Walker nipped in front of his marker and guided in another sweet first-time finish.

And that was how it remained as Russia never really picked up enough momentum to threaten a comeback while Tumilty’s side had a couple of counters which could have yielded more tangible rewards.

IRELAND: J Carr, T Cross, J McKee, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, S Murray, J Duncan, M Robson, B Walker, L Cole.

Subs: L Madeley, D Walsh, N Glassey, P McKibbin, C Empey, S Hyland, M Ingram.

RUSSIA: I Ozherelev, N Yankun, S Matkovskiy, A Skiperskiy, E Artemov, P Golubev, I Loginov, A Borisov, A Sobolevskiy, D Starienko, I Zamalutdinov.

Subs: D Kuraev, G Arusiia, D Bereza, D Zheleznyakov, A Dryanitsyn.

Umpires: I Diamond (SCO), P van den Assum (NED).

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