Andrew Meredith’s reign as Ireland hockey coach began with a narrow 4-3 defeat to hosts Argentina in Champions Challenge 1 in Quilmes, Argentina yesterday.
Following evenly balanced early encounters, the game sprung to life in the last 15 minutes of the first half with Ireland claiming a two-goal lead before a resolute and skilful home side fought their way back into the game impressively.
Meredith had handed John Jermyn his 150th cap for the Green Machine in this encounter and the Cork man repaid the coach’s faith by edging Ireland in front from a penalty corner with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
Ireland appeared to be creeping towards a position of power when Lisnagarvey player Timothy Cockram increased Ireland’s lead to 2-0 just four minutes later with a brilliantly executed reverse stick shot off a rebounded penalty corner.
Argentina, however, were not prepared to lie down and stormed back into the game when Gonzalo Peillat reduced the deficit from a penalty corner in the 30th minute.
With one minute remaining until the break, Argentina completed their comeback when Lucas Vila leveled the contest at 2-2 with a beautiful finish.
Buoyed by their first-half comeback, Argentina seized control of the game early in the second period when once again Gonzalo Peillat scored from a penalty corner to give the hosts the advantage in the 41st minutes.
Ireland still managed to create some chances to level the game and it wasn’t until three minutes from time that Argentina finally appeared to have sealed the game when Vila added his second goal.
The Green Machine, working hard throughout, still had time to be rewarded right on full time in the game when Michael Watt pushed the ball home from a crowded circle to make the scoreline 4-3.
It was a little too late for Ireland to complete the comeback though and the hosts held on to claim the victory.
Speaking following the defeat, Meredith said: “It was a disappointing performance overall with too many inconsistent phases in both halves. There were some real positive phases where we looked good on the ball but there were far too many technical errors to really stamp our authority in any phase.”
Ireland will have a chance to improve today when they are back in action in Pool B where they will face Japan who played out a 4-4 draw with South Africa.
Ireland starting XI: D Harte, C Harte, Gleghorne, Gormley, Jackson, Jermyn, Magee, McConnell, Caruth, Darling, Cockram