MEN’S HOCKEY: Ireland on verge of qualification for Rio Olympics

Alan Sothernwas on target for Ireland against Malaysia
Alan Sothernwas on target for Ireland against Malaysia

Ireland have taken a massive step towards securing their spot at next summer’s Rio Olympics.

The Green Machine eased to a polished 4-1 victory over world number 12 Malaysia on Sunday.

The triumph leaves Craig Fulton’s side on the verge of their first ever appearance at an Olympic Games.

Goals from Kyle Good, Peter Caruth, Alan Sothern and Mitch Darling put the game out of reach of a pacey Malaysian side that struggled to take their chances.

The Irish will have to wait until October for confirmation that they will take part in Rio.

It will take a series of unlikely outcomes in the confederation tournaments to deny Ireland their spot.

Fulton’s side must wait for the results of those events and hope that extra Olympic places are allocated to the World League.

The Green Machine got off to the perfect start with a goal each for Good and Caruth in the opening 10 minutes.

Malaysia enjoyed the bulk of possession but pressure from the Irish defence and superb goal keeping from Harte meant the sides went into the half 2-0 to the Irish.

Two clear missed chances – one on open goal – by Malaysia could have proved the turning point of the match but the Irish looked more clinical with their chances throughout.

Mitch Darling with a precise backhand pass expertly set Sothern up for a tap-in in front of goal in the 40th minute.

Malaysia earned a goal back in the 55th minute thanks to a deflected shot by Faiz from a training ground penalty corner routine.

Steady heads and maturity came to the forefront for the Irish as the clock wound down and this time it was the turn of Darling to get on the score sheet and make it 4-1 from a diving deflected shot by O’Donoghue.

The victory earns Ireland a fifth place finish at Hockey World League in Antwerp, having beaten two teams ranked higher than them along the way.

But more importantly the fifth spot gives Ireland every chance of going to Rio.

For the Green Machine to not compete at the Olympics three things must occur:

* Brazil finish sixth or higher at the Pan Am games and claim their host spot

* New Zealand win the Oceania Continental Championships

* Egypt win the African Continental Championships

Ireland Team: Harte, Jackson, Bell, Gormley, Watt, Cargo, Sothern, Dowds, O’Donoghue, Darling, Gleghorne

Subs: Magee, Caruth, Shimmins, Carlisle, Good, Harte, Fitzgerald