Ireland men on verge of place at Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Peter Caruth prepares to score Ireland's second goal against Malaysia in the first quarter
Peter Caruth prepares to score Ireland's second goal against Malaysia in the first quarter

Ireland's men's hockey team are on the verge of qualifying for the Olympics for the first time after beating Malaysia 4-1 in a play-off for fifth place at the World League in Antwerp.

Kyle Good, Peter Caruth, Alan Sothern and Mitch Darling scored for Ireland.

The Irish will have to wait until October for confirmation that they will take part in the 2016 Games in Rio.

However it would take a series of unlikely outcomes in the confederation tournaments to deny Ireland their spot.

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

Ireland dominated the opening quarter both in terms of possession and chances as they penned the Malaysians back into their own half.

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Irish men on verge of Olympic hockey dream

That pressure was rewarded with two strikes in the opening 15 as Good and Caruth both got their names on the scoresheet, while frustrations got the better of Malaysia, who had Izad Jamaluddin yellow carded.

Malaysia pressed for their first score in the second quarter, with Muhammad Shamsul coming close to pushing home from close range, only for goalkeeper David Harte to get down low and deflect the ball wide with a ricochet off his body.

The Asian side had another fine chance when Faizal Saari jinked past the Irish defence to leave the goal gaping, only for the number 10 to shoot wide right.

Ireland held firm for the remainder of the quarter to hold onto their two-nil lead at the long break.

Saari had a further chance to haul Malaysia back into the game in the third quarter, but again missed the target when expected to goal.

And as the Malaysians continued to spurn chances, Ireland capitalised, with Darling breaking down the left wing to chop-reverse cross for Sothern to finish from close range.

That left Ireland three goals to the good with five to play in the third quarter, which they closed out without further score.

The Asian side need something special in the final quarter to pull themselves back into the game, and they began in the worst possible way, losing Nabil Noor to a yellow card after 48 minutes.

They then forced Harte into a super parry from a penalty corner from Saari and the Malaysians pressed again with three further penalty corners, but the Irish rearguard held firm as they repelled three different set-pieces.

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The Malaysians were eventually rewarded for their pressure as Faiz Jali got on the end of yet another penalty corner - Malaysia's sixth of the game - to reduce the deficit to two goals.

From their seventh penalty corner Harte was again forced into a save as he parried away to his left from Saari once more.

Having been dominated for almost the entirety of the final quarter, Ireland countered from deep right, with Shane O'Donoghue shooting far left, and Darling getting a deft touch to direct the ball home to seal the victory with a superb finish.

Speaking post-match, keeper Harte said: "The way that we had to defend again in serious big games like this showed fantastic effort from all 18.

"It's been a rollercoaster, we've had incredible highs and lows, but to finish on a high like this is amazing.

"We came here to do a job and finish as high as we possibly could. Today we had a chance to play against a team that was higher ranked and take a scalp and that's what we did. We're absolutely over the moon."

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