Eugene Magee stamped down a marker of intent in the opening minutes as Ireland defeated Italy in Pool A in the World League 2 to secure a quarter final spot at Stormont.
Magee fired two passes into the circle, both just missing his awaiting team-mates, but then linked up with Shane O’Donoghue to bulldoze through the middle, although his reverse shot was over the bar.
Jamie Wright and Matthew Nelson were next to expose the Italian defence as they darted down the left wing with ease, with Ireland’s pace seeming to catch out the Italians more than once.
David Harte was called into action in the 12th minute with three Italian penalty corners but the two-time world goalie of the year couldn’t be beaten.
Ireland kept creating chances and Conor Harte saw his penalty corner drag saved early in the second quarter. Thomas Keenan saved the Italians’ blushes when McKee beat Enrico Francesconi in goal but the retreating defender made a fine stick save to keep the score at 0-0.
Harte and Matthew Bell, winning his 50th cap yesterday, continued to puncture the Italian line with their driving runs into their opponents’ half.
The Italian defence was eventually broken in the 25th minute when Ronan Gormley broke into the circle and set Matthew Nelson up for a tap-in in front of goal. McKee, Harte and Paul Gleghorne all saw their shots and deflections go either high or wide as Ireland tried to add to their tally.
The second half started as the first had ended with Shane O’Donoghue drawing a fine save from his penalty corner drag flick. Gleghorne was on hand with his pin-point passes but O’Donoghue had the ball pipped from under him as he readied himself for the reverse shot.
McKee was causing havoc in the Italian defence and again dummied Francesconi, leaving the goal exposed but Keenan and Julien Dallons were on hand to save and clear the shot.
The Italians upped the ante in the final quarter and pushed hard for an equaliser. Both Julian and Juan Montone were forcing some chances but in truth the Irish circle was rarely infiltrated nor the Irish defence particularly troubled. Ireland ran out deserved winners while Italy owe much to Keenan and Francesconi for keeping the score at 1-0.
Ireland: D Harte, J Bell (Captain), M Bell, Gormley, Nelson, Magee, O’Donoghue, McKee, Gleghorne, C Harte, Wright. Subs: Carr, Walker, Cargo, Glassey, Murray, Duncan, Cole
In the other games, Scotland defeated Poland 2-1 with a brace from Alan Forsythe, while Wales suffered a 1-0 defeat against France.
Austria ran out 4-2 winners against Ukraine.