Ireland cruise to win in International Rules practice

Paul Earley’s men register comprehensive victory despite being outscored in final quarter


Ireland's International rules team had its first run-out at Trevor Barker Beach Oval in Sandringham this morning and recorded a comprehensive victory over the Victoria Football League selection, drawn from what is effectively the AFL reserve league.

It will have been a concern for Ireland that their opponents, who gamely kept going until the end actually outscored the visitors 13-11 in the final quarter.

Otherwise it was a useful exercise in blowing the cobwebs out of the system for the GAA team, which has been in training regularly over the past two months but given the nature of the game, hasn't played a match since last year's series.


Ireland started sharply and had four goals scored in the first quarter – Cork's Colm O'Neill hitting a hat-trick with captain Michael Murphy providing the other – to lead convincingly 31-6 at the first break.

Ireland struggled a little at the start with the new rule prohibiting short kick-outs and requiring the ball to travel 45 metres but adapted. There was still some classic Australian marking around the middle with Coburg’s Lech Featherstone taking couple of spectacular catches.

Ireland though were sharper up front and turned most of their attacks to account with just one behind – the one-point score, which is equivalent of a narrow wide in Gaelic football – or 14 per cent of their total as opposed to 75 per cent for the VFL, whose kicking betrayed their lack of familiarity with the round ball.

Ireland were missing Monaghan's Conor McManus – last year's Player of the Series and top scorer – who along with fellow international Chrissy McKaigue was involved in today's Ulster club championship semi-final between Clontibret and Slaughtneil but the scores came easily enough.

Five more were added to the first-quarter total – another from O'Neill and Murphy plus contributions from Aidan O'Shea, Pearce Hanley, Ireland's only current AFL players and Seán Cavanagh, who put in an impressively energetic display.

Having led 59-8 at half-time and 89-14 going into the last quarter Ireland began to lose urgency and the home side rallied creditably. Their only goal, pinged in after a sustained attack by Adam Cockie was celebrated like an AFL contract.

Speaking afterwards, manager Paul Earley said that he was happy with the exercise, which was the first warm-up match Ireland have undertaken since the slightly notorious one in Perth 11 years ago when Tipperary's Declan Browne missed out on both tests because of a leg injury picked up in a challenge by WAFL selection player Ashley Prescott.

Earley was keen however to have a practice, as this year’s international competition will be decided over just one test next Saturday evening in Perth’s Patterson Stadium.

“Yeah, we achieved the objectives we set out to achieve: to get a good run-out; some things we did reasonably well others we can improve on and we’ve got some work to do in particular areas and we came through without any serious injuries. I think we have a few minor knocks and hopefully they’ll clear up ok tomorrow.”

IRELAND: Niall Morgan (Tyrone); Kevin McKernan (Down), Neil McGee (Donegal), Ciarán McDonald (Tipperary); Colm Boyle (Mayo), Lee Keegan (Mayo), James McCarthy (Dublin); Aidan Walsh (Cork; vice-captain), Seán Cavanagh (Tyrone); Cathal Cregg (Roscommon), Colm Begley (Laois); Pearce Hanley (Brisbane Lions and Mayo ); Colm O'Neill (Cork), Michael Murphy (Donegal; capt.), Ross Munnelly (Laois).

Inter-change: Matthew Donnelly (Tyrone), Finian Hanley (Galway), Darren Hughes (Monaghan), Kevin McLoughlin (Mayo), David Moran (Kerry), Pádraig O'Neill (Kildare), Paddy O'Rourke (Meath), Aidan O'Shea (Mayo).

Scorers: C O'Neill 30 (4-1-3), M Murphy 19 (2-1-4), A O'Shea 16 pts (1-3-1), C Cregg 9 (0-3-0), S Cavanagh 9 (1-1-0), P Hanley 6 (1-0-0), R Munnelly 5 (0-1-2), C Boyle 3 (0-1-0), D Hughes 1 (0-0-1), D Moran 1 (0-0-1), M Donnellly 1 (0-0-1).

VFL: Evan Panozza (vice-capt.); Tom O'Sullivan, Thomas Paule, Tom Gribble; Adam Marcon, Luke Tynan, Jye Bolton; Ben Jolley (capt.), Adam Cockie; Myke Cook, Nicholas Newman, Scott Clouston; Lech Featherstone, James Magner, Toby Pinwill (vice-capt.).

Inter-change: Adam Saad, Scott Sherlock; Ben Cavarra, Cameron Lockwood, Nick Rippon; Ben Smithwick, Bede Mahon, Jackson Geary, Ben Davies, Jake Owen,.

Scorers: A Cockie 9 (1-1-0); L Featherstone (0-1-1); S Clouston 4 (0-1-1); J Bolton 3 (0-1-0); T Pinwill 3 (0-1-0); N Rippon 1 (0-0-1); T O'Sullivan 1 (0-0-1); J Owen 1 (0-0-1), B Davies 1 (0-0-1).