Conor Empey and Sam Hyland both had dreamy debuts as they scored for the Irish men’s team against Malaysia, with the former winning the goal with just three minutes left for Lisnagarvey.
Incredibly, Hyland opened the scoring with his first international touch two minutes before Empey got his first of the night soon after.
Malaysia fought back with Abu Kamal Azrai and Razie Rahim hitting the net, but Empey dived in time for a memorable 3-2 success.
For coach Mark Tumilty and his 14th-ranked Ireland, he was delighted to take the victory over the 11th-ranked Malaysians while seeing his young players make an impact.
“It was a very quick game and is probably a good part of what we will face from Russia. [in the World Cup qualifiers]”said Tumilty.
“It was good to win against a nation ranked above us so that’s a big plus point as it was coming back from the equalizer. Conor and Sam both scored on their debut, delighted for them for their hard work and efforts.
“We have tried to increase the number of players and that creates this additional competition for places. It puts a little pressure on them to perform well, but there will be pressure in the World Cup qualifiers, so happy from that point of view
For his part, Hyland added, “I don’t think you could have written it better. First touch, first goal – my first international goal at any age so very happy!
As for Empey, he said: “It was a good start. It feels good to have the victory, to get it back at the end. Good fight of the boys to finish.
In a whirlwind opening, Hyland scored with his first international touch with less than two minutes on Ireland’s first chance.
After clever control in the circle, his shot deflected a defender’s foot to deceive goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman.
And it was 2-0 in the eighth minute, Empey coming off the bench and taking the mark as a Shane O’Donoghue popped into the circle saw the ball burst and bounce back to the forward who came home with joy.
After a quick start, Malaysia – coached by former Irish assistant coach Arul Anthoni – settled in and had the most control in the second quarter. Three penalty corners were avoided as James Milliken controlled Abu Kamal Azrai and Azuan Hasan fired shots in his direction.
Ireland had the best of the early stages of the third quarter, but didn’t really stretch the visitors’ defense.
And, on the clock, Malaysia used their speed to impressive effect. They managed to spit out a perfect chance when Azuan Hasan’s cross was returned by a foot rather than a stick at close range.
The goal came seconds from the end of the quarter when Azrai ran clear to the left and applied the perfect reverse stick shot to the bottom corner.
Malaysia were controversially tied when Razie Rahim’s drag flick hit the back panel, with Ireland arguing the ball had never left the attacking circle since the corner injection.
But Ireland finished the strongest, winning their first corners in the final three minutes. From the second, Lee Cole’s trail was blocked by Othman but no one moved to free it. Empey spotted the loose ball and duly spanked it at point blank range.
The two parties meet on Wednesday evening in Lisnagarvey (7:30 p.m.).
Ireland: J Milliken, L Madeley, J McKee, K O’Dea, K Marshall, S O’Donoghue, P McKibbin, M Robson, B Walker, L Cole, S Hyland
Subscribers: D Walsh, S Murray, M McNellis, J Duncan, C Harte, C Empey, J Carr
Malaysia: H Othman, N Sumantri, M Jalil, A Hamsani, S Cholan, F Ashari, R Rahim, F Jali, A Hasan, AK Azrai, N Jazlan
Subscribers: N Hassan, ZP Mizan, F Saari, A Zain, A Rozemi, S Saabah, H Abdul