Ireland fall just short as dream of FIH Pro League fades in South Africa

Host nation win Nations Cup after seven-goal final in Potchefstroom

South Africa 4 Ireland 3

Ireland fell just short in their effort to qualify for the Pro League of hockey when they lost 4-3 to hosts South Africa in the final of the Nations Cup in Potchefstroom.

It took a final quarter penalty stroke to separate the teams with Ireland having almost double the shots on goal that South Africa did, but just missed a cutting edge.

Ireland were never ahead and spent much of the time chasing the game after South Africa scored after four minutes through Dayaan Cassiem, who finished the day as player of the match and player of the tournament.


Ireland equalised through Shane O’Donoghue from the first penalty corner, his drag flick beating Hendrik Kriek in the South Arican goal before Cassiem again put South Africa 2-1 in front from play. Tevin Kok added the host’s third goal before O’Donoghue again kept Ireland in touch from the set piece. Jeremy Duncan then received in midfield and found John McKee in the circle. His deflected sweep brought the teams level at 3-3.

Finally a penalty stroke to South Africa was the decider with Mustapha Cassiem sending Irish goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald the wrong way for 4-3.

“Just gutted, to be honest, really gutted. Credit to South Africa, they were good today; they took their chances,” said Irish captain Seán Murray. “We put a lot of pressure on, had some good chances as well but in the end, it just comes down to little details and it’s just bitterly disappointing.”

Coach Mark Tumilty felt Ireland had the winning of the match. “We had enough chances to get something out of that game but that’s sometimes the way that it goes at this level,” he admitted. “We got punished by a very clinical South Africa side. It’s a disappointing result, and the opportunity to play in the FIH Pro League would have been fantastic, not just for the senior men’s team, but for hockey in Ireland.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times