** Ireland v India will be broadcast as part of RTE2’s live Olympic coverage from 3.45am on Friday, July 30 – note this will be geo-blocked in Northern Ireland; if other sports are showing, coverage continues on the RTE Player
** For viewers in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, Discovery+ will broadcast every game from the Olympics live here: https://www.discoveryplus.co.uk/olympics/sport/field-hockey
Women’s Olympic Games – Pool A
Ireland v India, 3.45am (Irish time)
Irish coach Sean Dancer says the Green Army’s Olympic quarter-final hopes were always likely to come down to the ties with India and Great Britain as they look forward to two games in two days at the Oi Stadium.
First on the agenda is a Friday date with India, ranked one place below Ireland in tenth in the Tokyo midday heat (11.45am locally), as part of their ongoing rivalry.
An Irish win would all but assure progression to the knock-out stages but the Indian “Eves” have been on a steady rise of late and will be gunning for revenge after two narrow losses at the 2018 World Cup.
Back then, Anna O’Flanagan scored a single goal in a 1-0 group stage win while the quarter-final there ended in a shoot-out success for Ireland after a scoreless 60 minutes.
Ireland’s 2-0 opening day win over South Africa has been followed up by defeats to the world number one and two sides, the Netherlands and Germany. The latter, though, saw a hugely encouraging performance and Dancer says carrying the same approach from that tie will serve them well.
“Temperatures were very high being in the middle of the day so it was always going to be a hard task,” Dancer reflected on that tie.
“What I am really pleased about is we kept fighting and, at stages, we stressed and hurt Germany which is a good sign.
“We believe in our ability to play good hockey which is something I try to reinforce. Against Holland, maybe we didn’t back ourselves so that was the message against Germany. Have a real go; if you do that, opportunities certainly open up, especially in the last quarter.”
As for the India proposition, it will be a new challenge compared to two highly-structured European sides. They have yet to register a point from their three games but are the only side to score against the Dutch thus far while they rattled the cage of the goal twice against Germany in a 2-0 defeat.
“It’s just a different style of play. India have strong elimination skills, the ability to crash the ball [direct] is something they are well known for. Understanding their structure but also willing to front up well and I think we match up nicely against them. We will try and get on the front foot and punish them any way we can.
“It was positive to get points in that first game; we knew the Dutch and German games would be difficult and probably take care of themselves. I suppose the hard work starts now – we always knew India and GB would be where the tournament gets really interesting and we have to step up; that is the main challenge.”
And he goes into it with a squad in reasonably fresh state despite three games in five days, using the new rules to freshen up the line-up as much as possible.
“It’s a really interesting situation with player 17 and 18 allowed to come in; they are also now staying in the village with us which wasn’t the original setup.
“It gives us more flexibility to have them on the same page. When they were outside the village, it was an extra layer of organisation to sort out.
“Our last two games were at 10.30am and then at 12pm, smack in the middle of the day. The heat is certainly draining people so my thought is to rest a few players when we can, put the workload over the whole squad.
“I’m confident with the 18 players. Michelle [Carey] and Zara [Malseed] both got runs and I think that’s good for the whole squad. It allows them get into a tournament where they wouldn’t usually be able to play.”
Ireland v India – head to head
Overall: 26 meetings
Ireland: 14 wins, 5 draws, 7 losses; goals for 40, goals against 26
Most recent meeting: February 2019: Ireland 0 India 3; that was India’s first win in seven meetings; they have 14 players from that panel in Tokyo; Ireland have 10
Last Irish win: July 2018, 1-0 (Anna O’Flanagan), World Cup, Lee Valley
India Olympic record: 3rd Olympic appearance – 4th in 1980 when many top nations boycotted; 12th in 2016
Current world ranking: 10th