Stalemate between Ireland and Italy

Italy defending against Ireland
Italy defending against Ireland

Ireland and Italy fought out a 1-1 draw in the second game of the three-match series at Jordanstown on Saturday.

It was a scrappy encounter and not the result national coach Darren Smith was looking for against a side ranked two places lower in the world list.

Ireland had won the opening game 1-0 on Thursday night but a similar result in Italy’s favour on Sunday at the same venue (2pm) would see the visitors square the series.

Both teams are using the matches as part of the preparation for the upcoming World League 3 tournament which is the final eliminator for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

On this display, Ireland will have their work cut out to achieve the required top five berth, against higher-ranked opponents in most cases, if they are to qualify.

However, in mitigation, they are without most of the UCD contingent, who are being rested after a gruelling recent schedule.

Ireland were comfortable enough in defence and largely creative in midfield but lacked a cutting edge in the Italy circle.

The first quarter was almost devoid of goal mouth action bar a penalty corner in the 11th minute from which Shirley McCay’s improvised shot was deflected off a defender’s stick to safety.

A minute into the second period Megan Frazer’s reverse stick effort looked destined for the goal mouth but Chloe Brown’s body got in the way and the chance was missed.

The hosts forced their second set-piece 60 seconds later and, from a Brown pass, Frazer’s shot was aved by the keeper.

Aine Connery then fired in a powerful rising shot which the Italian keeper did well to palm to safety.

Italy then forced three penalty corners in quick succession in second quarter stoppage time and from the last of these, Lovagnini Aldana found the net with a deflection.

The third period, like the first, saw little in the way of goal mouth action bar a Deirdre Duke snap shot which was saved by the keeper.

Connery levelled matters when she scrambled the ball home in the 48th minute following a penalty corner with the Italians claiming in vain thet the ball had struck an Irish foot before entering the net.

With eight minutes remaining Hayley Mulcahy got in a shot which flew narrowly over the bar and the game fizzled out rather tamely into a draw which was probably a fair reflection of the play.