Ireland's domination complete

Sat, Nov 5, 2011, 00:00

Ireland (1-13-5) 50 Australia (0-7-8) 29IT WOULD be hard to say that yesterday’s second Test in the Metricon Stadium was anti-climactic, as the 2011 International Rules series was never building to a climax after the annihilation of Australia in the first outing. Yet although the margin was reduced from 44 to 21, there was rarely anything competitive about the football once Australia had got a promising start out of their system.

Stephen Milne kicked the home side 2-1 ahead in the sixth minute to accompany guffaws from the local media (“nice and steady – one point at a time”) and by the 10th minute the lead had gone to seven, so theoretically they were on course. But seriously.

In front of a crowd of 12,545 Ireland were once more on top in every sector and gradually they made the superiority tell. Having been under pressure from a more pumped-up Australian challenge in the first quarter, Anthony Tohill’s team put in a destructive last few minutes in the first quarter to deprive their opponents of even the consolation of winning the opening period.

Steven McDonnell, in his last match for Ireland and taking his career scoring total to 118, curled over a couple of excellent overs to give his side a narrow 9-8 lead. From then on Ireland won all of the remaining quarters in a Test that occasionally degenerated into ill-tempered confrontations as Australia raised the physical challenge as promised.

The technical ability to kick the ball from different distances and angles was acknowledged though as the most telling disparity between the teams. Australia couldn’t manage it and couldn’t work the close-in marks to give themselves an enhanced chance of taking scores.

Ireland’s defence was again excellent. Vice-captain Ciarán McKeever was exceptionally tenacious, cutting out hopefully hit ball into the forwards and contesting the more accurately directed stuff by getting a hand in or punching the ball away.

He was unfairly yellow-carded in the third quarter for a collision not of his instigation, but together with his defensive colleagues Colm Begley and Pearce Hanley, he was in the top four busiest players on the field for the visitors along with Tadhg Kennelly, a deserved choice for the GAA’s Player of the Series, and Stephen Cluxton.

The captain and goalkeeper again didn’t have the happiest time with his kick-outs but his general tidying at the back was once more top quality.

It should be said that the AFL team was among the more toothless to have contested the series. Their score of 29 was an historic low for a team in the international series and they managed just six points, one over and three behinds, in the entirety of the second half.

Captain Brad Green, who made a nuisance of himself and not in a good way – by pulling down opponents after the ball had gone – again was their top scorer, with 10 but four of those were behinds which he would have hoped might have been better directed.

He got immense support from further back where defender James Kelly was a worthy winner of the Jim Stynes medal for best AFL player and again got on to a stack of ball with only Cluxton handling more possession throughout the series.

A well constructed move in the 32nd minute involving Michael Murphy and McDonnell, who put Leighton Glynn in the clear meant that even the sub-plot of the second Test was now a foregone conclusion once the Wicklow man slotted his second goal of the series. At half-time the lead was 11.

Murphy, whose aggression in the tackle combined effectively with his great finishing talent, scored seven on the night but was yellow carded for rough play in the 34th minute – a risk his physically confrontational style was at times running.

This seemed to trigger a wave of yellow cards as Finian Hanley and McKeever followed Murphy as did Angus Monfries, Mark Nicoski and Robbie Gray in a fractious and bad-tempered phase of the match.

The third quarter is sometimes known as the ‘moving quarter’ because of its significance but the only discernible movement yesterday was that of five players trekking off for a spell in the sin bin.

With Australia forcing hardly any activity on the scoreboard operators, Ireland simply had to keep their own total rising, with Tommy Walsh glad to oblige.

The match wound up without serious incident as Ireland cruised to success and the recapture of the Cormac McAnallen Cup.

IRELAND: 1 S Cluxton (Dublin, captain); 18 C McKeever, (Armagh, vice-captain), 27 K Reilly (Meath), 21 N McGee (Donegal); 19 K McKernan (Down), 9 P Hanley (Mayo/ Brisbane Lions), 2 C Begley (Laois); 28 Z Tuohy (Laois/Carlton), 14 T Kennelly (Kerry/Sydney Swans); 7 L Glynn (Wicklow), 31 T Walsh (Kerry/Sydney Swans), 20 J McMahon (Tyrone); 23 M Murphy (Donegal), 6 K Donaghy (Kerry), 16 S McDonnell (Armagh). Inter-change: 3 E Bolton (Kildare), 4 E Cadogan (Cork), 5 E Callaghan (Kildare), 11 D Hughes (Monaghan), 13 P Kelly (Cork), 22 B Murphy (Carlow), 8 F Hanley (Galway), 30 A Walsh (Cork). Scorers: McDonnell 9 (0-3-0), T Walsh 9 (0-3-0), M Murphy 7 (0-2-1), Glynn 7 (1-0-1), Donaghy 7 (0-2-1), Callaghan 3 (0-1-0), Kennelly 3 (0-1-0), McMahon 3 (0-1-0), Tuohy 1 (0-0-1), McKernan 1 (0-0-1).

AUSTRALIA: 1 M Suckling (Hawthorn); 5 S Grigg (Richmond), 8 J Frawley (Melbourne), 9 J Kelly (Geelong Cats, vice captain); 40 D Wojcinski (Geelong Cats), 24 J Patfull (Brisbane Lions), 4 A Swallow (North Melbourne); 2 Z Smith (Gold Coast Suns), 17 B Vince (Adelaide Crows); 21 B McGlynn (Sydney Swans), 11 M Robinson (Carlton), 7 M Nicoski (West Coast); 18 B Green (Melbourne, captain), 6 A Monfries (Essendon), 44 S Milne (St Kilda). Inter-change: 3 L Shiels (Hawthorn), 10 J Trengove (Melbourne), 13 T McKenzie (Gold Coast Suns), 14 C Ward (GWS Giants), 15 R Gray (Port Adelaide), 26 R Douglas (Adelaide Crows), 16 R Nahas (Richmond), 29 E Wood (Western Bulldogs). Scorers: Green 10 (0-2-4), Smith 9 (0-3-0), Robinson 4 (0-1-1), McGlynn 3 (0-1-0), Milne 1 (0-0-1), Swallow 1 (0-0-1), Trengove 1 (0-0-1).

Scores by quarter: 9-8, 25-15, 7-1, 9-5.

Referees: David Coldrick (GAA) and Ray Chamberlain (AFL).

Ireland win series 2-0 (130-65 agg)