Ireland men’s hockey team were involved in a thrilling game today in New Delhi which saw Andrew Meredith’s side beaten 3-2 by hosts India at the World League 2.
The Green Machine clawed themselves back into the game twice in both halves through goals from Conor Harte and Eugene Magee.
However, it wasn’t enough to shade the close-fought encounter against an experienced Indian team.
The game started at blistering pace, the quickest seen at this World League 2 tournament to date, with India in particular looking dangerous in the early encounters and forcing a number of early penalty corners.
In the 16th minute, the hosts managed to get their noses in front when Rupinder finally converted India’s fourth penalty corner of the game.
Ireland fought back strongly in the first half to try to regain a foot hold in the game, but were always weary of the quick counter attacks of India.
The Green Machine finally got on level terms themselves though in the 26th minute following good work from Magee and David Carson to win successive penalty corners before Ireland’s Harte swept home a majestic equaliser.
"We wanted the three points today, we worked to capacity, and we created enough opportunities to tie the game up if not win it" - Andrew Meredith
With the tide slowly changing in Ireland’s favour, and the two sides now sharing possession equally, the half-time hooter quickly sounded with the teams locked at 1-1.
The second half began as frantic as the first half with both sides going close with early chances.
India again proved deadly from penalty-corner situations as Raghunath stuck expertly past David Harte in the Irish goal to re-establish the lead for the hosts as early as the fifth minute of the second half.
Less than a minute from conceding, Ireland goalkeeper Harte was called into action yet again to make a vital save to keep Ireland hanging on to India's coat tails.
The Green Machine have strong resolve though and once again forced themselves back into contention when Ireland’s record caps holder Magee converted a penalty corner to level the game up again at 2-2 in the 50th minute.
The stage was set for an end-to-end frantic finish and both sides didn’t disappoint the biggest crowd of the tournament to date.
India, for the third time, edged in front when a great counter attacking move was finished off by Dharamvir Singh in the 58th minute to make it 3-2.
There were half chances for both sides in the remaining 12 minutes of play, but it was right at the death when it appeared Ireland might have been able to force a third equalizer and send the game to penalty stokes.
With seconds remaining on the clock, first Harte and then Shane O’Donohue had chances to convert Ireland’s last two penalty corners of the game, but neither effort could find the target.
And so it finished 3-2 to hosts India despite a spirited and skillful Ireland performance for the large majority of the game.
Ireland will now have a day to recover before returning to action versus Oman on Saturday before the likely crunch game versus China on Sunday in the race to finish second in the group.
Ireland currently sit second in the table, level with China and Bangladesh while India are three points clear.
Speaking after the game, Ireland coach Andrew Meredith said: "It was a massive game for us, and you could see that from the effort, commitment and self-belief shown by the players on the field.
"We wanted the three points today, we worked to capacity, and we created enough opportunities to tie the game up if not win it."
Meredith continued: "India started the game better than us, although we did not play poorly, but they certainly had the better initial 12 minutes.
"I thought we then adjusted pretty well, and had some very long periods were we managed and controlled the game.
"After conceding a couple of corners that were generated through lapses in concentration early in the game, the series of three offensive corners in the last four minutes became the critical phase, which we were not able to convert on, and that is what ultimately cost us the points today."
Ireland starting XI: D Harte, J Jackson, R Gormley, C Harte, S Loughrey, C Cargo, E Magee, G McCabe, M Watt, S O'Donoghue, M Darling.