Ireland come up just short in Malta


REVIEW: Ireland men’s poor run against Malta continues as the senior squad come up short two days in the row against Malta and U23 Israel in University Sports Complex in Msida, Malta.


Heading into the first round of matches there was an air of expectation in the Irish camp of the tasks ahead. On the back of a solid training camp in Germany, where the Irish team won all but one of the games against German club sides, spirits were high.

Unfortunately, training with the full squad before the first day’s ties wasn’t feasible, and so with four debutants and all three left backs (Thiel, Campion & McAuley) nursing injuries the Irish team ventured – hopeful – into somewhat unknown waters with their 14-man squad.


Malta 23:18 Ireland (13:7) (2x 20 mins)

After some good opening minutes, Ireland looked like they were shaping up to end the poor streak Irish sides have had against Malta. The solid centre block of Julian Eberle and Alex Kulesh orchestrated coach Roman Abramenko’s hard-hitting defensive set up.


However, this good start in defence was not mirrored in attack with the Irish rushing plays, which led to a large number of technical mistakes — suddenly finding themselves 4:1 down.

Ireland looked to international debutant, Joshua Krohn Grace, in attack, but the Denmark-based right back was unlucky to have clipped the post several times after making excellent space from right back.

The once solid defence started to buckle underneath Malta’s grinding attacks and Ireland drifted behind (8:4). From there, the situation worsened with Malta’s Alex Di Pilato (top scorer with seven in total) scoring three unanswered goals from left back ending of the first 20 minutes (13:7).

Coming out in the second half Ireland improved in scoring with Bregazzi and J. Krohn Grace combining on the right side of the court to net five goals to Malta’s two (18:15). This was, however, as close as Ireland got to closing the gap as Malta took it from there to 22:16 before finally closing out the game with a five-goal win.

Goalscorers for Ireland

Krohn Grace: 6; Bregazzi: 3; O’Doherty: 3; O’Reilly: 2; Kulesh: 1; Campion: 1; Eberle: 1; T. Krohn Grace: 1


Ireland 17:34 Israel (9:16) (2x 20 mins)

A bruised and battered Eire had only a 30-minute turnaround before facing a fresh Israel side in the day’s second tie.

Ireland started well, keeping their head above water with six back-court bombs from Joshua Krone Grace leaving Ireland only behind by one at 7:6.

From there, concentration levels dropped off at a dramatic rate with Israel scoring eight goals to Ireland’s two as they found themselves caught out time and time again on the fast break (16:9).

In the second, the physical toll of having already played 60 minutes of handball versus Israel’s 20 started to become clear as Israel went on 3:0 run (19:9). Brief flashes of brilliance from Bregazzi and Alim O’Sullivan in goal were Ireland’s only real positives as the Israeli side racked up 3:0 (26:14) and 5:0 (31:15) runs, before seeing out the game with a 17-goal win.

Goalscorers for Ireland

Krohn Grace: 6; Bregazzi: 3; O’Reilly: 2; Eberle: 2; McAuley: 1; Deac: 1; O’Doherty: 1; Thiel: 1

DAY 2 

Ireland 21:23 Malta (10:11) (2x 20 mins)

Out to undo the wrongs of day 1, Ireland’s start in defence was reminiscent to that of the previous day. However, this time their attack was firing on all cylinders. Goals from McAuley and Kulesh helped Ireland to an early 4:2 lead.

From there Malta pulled it level at 6:6 with both team’s sharing blows right up until the half-time whistle – Ireland’s team captain Kulesh netting his second to close the gap to one (11:10) in favour of the Maltese.


In the second 20, the right-hand side proved once again it’s worth with Krohn Grace and Bregazzi scoring to pull it level 12:12. From there Malta opened a three-goal gap (18:15) before Eberle and Deac netted to close it to one (18:17).

The thorn in Ireland’s side stuck again as the towering left back Alex Di Pilato (6 in total) netted three in a row gifting the red and white a four-goal cushion (21:17). Two late goals each from Bregazzi and Krohn Grace weren’t enough with Malta holding on to a two-goal win.

Goalscorers for Ireland

Krohn Grace: 7; Bregazzi: 3; O’Reilly: 3; Eberle: 3; McAuley: 2; Kulesh: 2; Deac: 1

Israel 29:18 Ireland (10:9) (2x 20 mins) 

After yet another crushing defeat Ireland had to pick themselves up again to face a rested Israeli selection. Despite emptying their tanks against Malta the Irish side dug deep and put in their best 20 minutes of the whole weekend.

A combination of gritty goals from Eberle, O’Reilly and Bregazzi, saves from Sullivan and a rock solid defence saw the boys in green pull off a rally late in the first, which brought them to within one goal of Israel (10:9).

However, all this good work was undone early in the second with a 4:0 run bringing the U23 selection to 14:9. Halfway through the second when Chris Bregazzi closed the gap to three (19:16 in favour of Israel) it was the beginning of the end for team Eire, as Israel put the game to bed with 7:0 run which including a flurry of their clinical counterattacks (26:16).

Goalscorers for Ireland

Krohn Grace: 4; Bregazzi: 4; O’Reilly: 2; Eberle: 2; Kulesh: 2; Deac: 2; Thiel: 1; McAuley: 1




Malta 23:18 Ireland
Ireland 17:34 Israel
Israel 27:12 Malta


Ireland 21:23 Malta
Israel 29:18 Ireland
Malta 17:23 Israel

The tournament in Malta marks the end of 2016 for Ireland men. The squad will meet again in January 2017 for a training camp, the details of which will be announced in the coming weeks.