Empey and Hyland enjoy dream scoring debuts as Ireland beat Malaysia
Conor Empey, right, celebrates his winning goal against Malaysia, October 5 2021, Men’s Hockey International; Comber Road, Lisnagarvey. Picture: Billy Pollock
Men’s senior international
Ireland 3 (C Empey 2, S Hyland) Malaysia 2 (A K Azrai, R Rahim)
Conor Empey and Sam Hyland both enjoyed dream debuts as they scored for the Irish men’s side against Malaysia, the former netting the winner with just three minutes to go at Lisnagarvey.
Incredibly, Hyland had opening the scoring with his first international touch two minutes in before Empey got his first of the night soon after.
Malaysia stormed back with Abu Kamal Azrai and Razie Rahim hitting the net but Empey swooped with time running out for a memorable 3-2 success.
For coach Mark Tumilty, he was delighted to get the win over the 11th ranked Malaysians while also seeing his young guns make an impact.
“It was a very fast game and probably represent quite a bit of what we will face from Russia [in the World Cup qualifiers],” Tumilty said.
“It was good to win against a nation ranked above us so that is a big positive as was coming back after they equalised. Conor and Sam both scoring on their debuts, delighted for them for their hard work and effort.
“We have been trying to grow the number of players and that creates that extra competition for places. It puts a bit of pressure on them to perform but there will be pressure at the World Cup qualifiers so pleased from that point of view
For Hyland’s part, he added: “I don’t think you could have written it any better. First touch, first goal – my first international goal at any age level so very happy!”
As for Empey, he said: “It was a solid start. It feels good to get the win, getting it back at the end. Good fight from the boys to finish off.”
In a whirlwind opening, Hyland scored with his first international touch with under two minutes on the clock from Ireland’s first chance.
After a smart control in the circle, his shot took a deflection off a defender’s foot to deceive goalkeeper Hafizuddin Othman.
And it was 2-0 in the eighth minute, Empey coming off the bench and getting on the mark as a Shane O’Donoghue surge into the circle saw the ball pop and bounce to the forward who slotted home with glee.
After the swift start, Malaysia – coached by former Irish assistant coach Arul Anthoni – settled and had the greater control in the second quarter. Three penalty corners were kept out while James Milliken was in control of Abu Kamal Azrai and Azuan Hasan fired shots his way.
Ireland had the best of the early phases of the third quarter but without truly stretching the visitors’ defence.
And, on the counter, Malaysia used their speed to awesome effect. They contrived to cough up a perfect chance when Azuan Hasan’s cross was turned in by a foot rather than a stick from point blank range.
The goal did come with mere seconds to go of the quarter when Azrai raced clear down the left and applied the perfect reverse-stick shot into the bottom corner.
Malaysia were level in contentious fashion when Razie Rahim’s drag-flick hit the backboard, Ireland arguing the ball had never left the attacking circle from the corner injection.
But Ireland finished the stronger, earning their first corners in the last three minutes. From the second one, Lee Cole’s drag was blocked by Othman but no one moved to clear it. Empey spotted the loose ball and duly spanked it in from close range.
The two sides meet again on Wednesday evening at Lisnagarvey (7.30pm).
Tickets on sale via the Hockey Ireland website: https://hockey.ie/tickets-ireland-vs-malaysia/
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
Subs: 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, A K Azrai, N Jazlan
Subs: N Hassan, Z P Mizan, F Saari, A Zain, A Rozemi, S Saabah, H Abdul