Late penalty stroke breaks Ireland hearts in Nations Cup final

Mustaphaa Cassiem converted a fourth-quarter penalty for South Africa
Late penalty stroke breaks Ireland hearts in Nations Cup final

Ireland’s Sean Murray on the attack


Heartbreak for Ireland as a final quarter penalty stroke gave South Africa a pulsating FIH Hockey Nations Cup final in Potchefstroom on Sunday. Ireland had almost double the shots on goal that South Africa did, but lacked a cutting edge while the hosts were clinical in this high-stakes match.

Ireland never got in front in an enthralling encounter, although they managed to get back level from a 3-1 deficit in the third quarter to ensure a breathless last quarter. 

Mark Tumilty’s men spent much of the match chasing the game, but with 10 seconds to go in the third quarter, John McKee scored Ireland’s third to draw things level and give his team a chance to win this historic, inaugural tournament.

There was a fourth-minute field goal from South Africa’s skipper Dayaan Cassiem, who finished the day as player of the match and player of the tournament, found space on the right of the Irish circle, lifted the ball over his defender's stick and roofed a bouncing ball. 

Ireland dominated play and were rewarded in the second quarter when Shane O’Donoghue's sublime drag flick was too quick for Hendrik Kriek in the South Arica goal.

Amid end-to-end hockey, Cassiem restored the lead, backing into the circle and firing a bullet into the right corner on his reverse.

In the first minute of the second half, Tevin Kok produced the play of the game, dinking over a defender’s stick before a double lift just made it over Fitzgerald’s shoulder - 3-1.

Credit to Tumilty’s charges, they didn’t panic. After an Ireland referral and penalty corner, O’Donoghue gave them hope when he fired another rocket into the top right corner.

Jeremy Duncan then received in midfield and found McKee who drifted into the circle and his sweep was deflected in to make it three apiece going into the final quarter.

but the South African winner came 10 minutes from time. After a foul from behind on Cassiem, Mustaphaa Cassiem, Dayaan’s brother, sent Fitzgerald the wrong way from the penalty.

Ireland captain Sean Murray was understandably distraught. “Just gutted, to be honest, really gutted. Credit to South Africa, they were good today; they took their chances. We put a lot of pressure on, had some good chances as well but in the end, it just comes down to little details and it’s just bitterly disappointing."

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