The Irish Defence Forces made a disappointing start to European qualifying group for next year’s Council of International Military Sports (CISM) World Military Soccer Trophy when they were defeated 2-0 by the Dutch Armed Forces at Athlone Town Stadium yesterday.
Ireland dominated much of the play but couldn’t convert their chances against a Dutch side ready to spring on the counter-attack.
In the first half, a technically superior Irish side, with players drawn from the Airtricity League, Intermediate and Junior Leagues, showed the greater determination and should have been ahead after 15 minutes when a cross from Steven Fisher of Quay Celtic was just missed at the far post by Shelbourne’s Philip Gorman.
Minutes later Ireland had what seemed like a genuine call for a penalty when Noel McGee of Athlone Town was bundled over in the penalty area but French referee Romain Zamo waved play-on.
On the half hour mark, the large crowd which attended the game thought that Gorman’s strike from outside the box had gone in but it had actually struck the back stanchion and went behind the goal.
Ireland at this stage were dominating play and winning most of the 50-50 balls. A 30 yard strike from Irish centre half Mark Horgan of Avondale United just whizzed over the crossbar and the home crowd began to think that it might not be Ireland’s day.
In the final play of the first half, Dutch striker Kevin Liefhebber served a warning to the Irish when racing on to a through ball from David Hermans, only for Irish goalkeeper, Ronan O’Reilly of Monksland Utd, to pull off a spectacular, one-handed save.
The second half started in much the same vein as the first with the Irish enjoying most of the possession. After 50 minutes Gorman headed straight at the Dutch goalkeeper, Jeffrey Vendrig, followed almost immediately by a great cross from the left by Fisher which was glanced just past the far upright by Gorman. Liefhebber was again put through after 10 minutes, but once again, O’Reilly came to the rescue of the Irish.
The Dutch were now starting to grow in confidence and the deadlock was broken in the 58th minute when another long ball from the visiting defence put Liefhebber clear and this time he made no mistake, giving O’Reilly no chance.
This goal only served to spur the Irish on with Trevor Gethins of Fanad United and Drpgheda Town’s Keith Arnold increasing the intensity in midfield. Another great cross from Fisher was again met by Gorman, who forced the Dutch keeper into a good save and from the subsequent corner, Scott Delaney of Tullamore Town struck a powerful header straight at Vendrig.
On 70 minutes the Irish were again made to pay for their inaccuracy in front of goal as Liefhebber was again put through the middle to score his second.
In the last 20 minutes the Irish threw caution to the wind and further good chances fell to Athlone Town’s Niall Scullion who, along with Gethins, was Ireland’s best performer on the day, and Gorman, who was unlucky not to get a hat trick.
Clonmel Town’s Ian Cleary came on for an injured McGee and in the last five minutes was unlucky on two occasions with headers that both grazed the Dutch crossbar.
The final whistle brought disbelief from the Irish team and spectators that they could so dominate the game, yet come away at the end of a 2-0 defeat.
Manager, Commandant Declan Sheridan, must now raise the spirits of the Irish team before their final group game against the German Armed Forces at 11.30am on Friday morning in Drom, home of Salthill Devon FC.
The German team, who are considered group favourites, first play the Dutch at 2.30pm on Wednesday in Eamonn Deacy Park, Galway, and the outcome of this match will decide if the Irish have any chance of qualifying for the inaugural CISM World Soccer Cup to be held next year in Azerbaijan.
Irish Defence Forces: O’Reilly (Monksland Utd), O’Shea (Mayfield Utd), Culhane Glin Rovers FC), Delaney (Tullamore Town FC), Scullion (Athlone Town), Horgan (Avondale Utd), Gethins (Fand Utd), Arnold (Drogheda Town), Gorman (Shelbourne) , McGee (Athlone Town), Fisher (Quay Celtic FC), Subs: Cleary (Clonmel Town) for McGee (59), Friel (Glebe Utd) for O’Shea (65), Wall (Wexford Youths) for Arnold (78). Unused Substitutes: Kelly (Freebooters FC), Sherlock (Mayfield Utd), Heavey (Suncroft FC), O’Neill (Sacred Hearts), McCann (Woodview Celtic FC).
Netherlands: Vendgrig, Jansma, Den Hartagh, Hermans, Van Der Linden, Liefhebber, Carrera, Sturmans, Haverslag, Azeuini, Jansen. Subs: Yalcin for Azeuini (71), Van Der Wal for Sturmans (81). Unused substitutes: Van Boxtal, Van Der Brink, Dijhsteel.