Ireland roll over pathetic Aussies
McDonnell leads the carnage as tourists race to embarrassing success
SALUTE an efficient Irish performance, but how bad were Australia?
Pretty dreadful, it must be said,as they staggered helplessly from crisis to crisis, before committing the ultimate sporting sin of conceding defeat long before the end.
An unquenchable spirit -- even against the most mountainous odds -- has always been part of the Australian sporting psyche, but the team they sent out on International Rules duty in the Melbourne yesterday played like white towel salesmen who were keen to showcase their wares on the Etihad Stadium pitch.
They lost all four quarters (22-4, 22-16, 15-6, 21-10) as Ireland set a record for the biggest margin of victory since the series started in 1984 and leaves Ireland absolute certainties to regain the Cormac McAnallen Cup next Friday.
Australian coach Rodney Eade majored in understatement when he said afterwards: "There's no doubt we can play better."
It's inconceivable that they could be any worse and while he didn't criticise the players directly, one suspects he will be reminding them of their obligations to Australia's reputation as relentless battlers when the squad heads for Gold Coast to prepare for the second Test.
"I was just a bit disappointed in the last quarter when we seemed to drop off. At half-time, we were well down but I thought we were just getting the hang of it, but to come out after half-time and not go on with that improvement was disappointing," said Eade.
Disappointing? It was an embarrassment for Australia, whose dismal performance would have left them even worse off if Stephen Cluxton hadn't gifted them a goal in the second quarter. He was in possession way out to the left (he frequently acted as a sweeper) and looped an intended pass-back into the centre, which presented Brad Green with the only goal opportunity Australia got.
He steered the ball to the net to complete Australia's best quarter and leave them with some hope of stabilising the situation when they trailed 44-20 at half-time.
Given that they had been overwhelmed (22-4) in the first quarter, it showed signs of improvement and appeared to be fitting into the traditional pattern where Australia get better as games progress.
Not this time. They managed just six points in the third quarter as it became increasingly clear that they weren't remotely up to the job against an Irish team which had learned many valuable lessons from last year.
The main ones centred on intelligent use of the ball, which involved off-loading at speed, thus forcing the Australians to chase the game. The second area of improvement was in converting possession into scores, a process led by Tommy Walsh, Steven McDonnell, Leighton Glynn, Michael Murphy, Kieran Donaghy and Kevin McKernan, who plundered 65 points between them.
McDonnell's 18-point haul, which included a goal, not only extended his lead as Ireland's top scorer in International Rules history, it also took him through the century mark and on to a total of 109.
Glynn, Murphy and Eamonn Callaghan were the other goal scorers, while Donaghy was unlucky to have his final-quarter effort ruled out when a fifth maximum would have set another Test record.
In Gaelic football terms, Ireland won by 4-17 to 1-8, a scoreline which rarely occurs in a clash of so-called equals. It was awfully one-sided and leaves Australia facing a struggle for respectability next Friday. They won't get it unless they become far more competitive, not to mention more accurate and cuter.
Australia kicked the unfamiliar round ball most impressively in last year's Tests but with only four of that squad in action, it was evident from early on that the class of 2011 weren't nearly as good.
Ben McGlynn hoofed a 20-metre kick off a mark nearer to the corner flag than the posts in the fifth minute and when two other similar opportunities yielded just a point between them, Ireland were on their way. Murphy's goal in the 14th minute accelerated Australia's demise, and so it went for the rest of a game, which leaves the AFL -- and by extension the GAA -- with a real worry.
The attendance of 22,921 was down almost 20,000 on the corresponding game in Melbourne three years ago and while heavy rain had a negative impact, a reduction of nearly 50pc suggests the Australian public have fallen out of love with the hybrid game.
Australia's pathetic performance will do nothing to boost ticket sales for the second Test or, indeed, for any future venture in Melbourne.
With both sides on their best behaviour -- apart from a brief flare-up in the third quarter -- there was never the whiff of danger which did so much to ignite Ireland-Australia clashes over the years. Nobody wants to see a return to the naked thuggery of 2005/06, but there is a need for real engagement.
However, with both sides moving the ball quickly -- Ireland much more successfully -- there was relatively little continuity in the tackling.
Even then, the entertainment could have been maintained if the match had been close, but that was never the case.
Instead, Ireland enjoyed a level of superiority never previously seen in International Rules. They deserved credit for executing their game plan so well but must have been surprised by the ease with which Australia capitulated.
"We expected them to hit a lot more high ball inside. In other years they have kicked it in longer, but they tried to work it in this time. They'll have to change it now," said defender Neil McGee.
Australia will have to do a lot more than that if they are to avoid another big defeat.
As for Ireland, the series is secured (they will take an 11-point-per-quarter advantage to Gold Coast) but they will be keen to inflict more pain on the Australians.
Another easy Irish win would wound the game, although that won't be of any concern to the squad, whose job is win by as wide a margin as possible.
They were facilitated in that pursuit by anaemic opposition who must surely respond next week. Clearly though, they don't have the necessary skills, not least when it comes to shooting for goal.
As for Ireland, it made up for the poor performances when they lost both Tests last year, even if a narrow win over a good Australian side would be more rewarding than a landslide success against professionals who looked like raw amateurs.
Truly, an embarrassing occasion for Australia -- and there could be more to come next Friday.
Scorers -- Ireland: S McDonnell 1-4-0 (18), L Glynn 1-2-0 (12), M Murphy 1-2-0 (12), T Walsh 0-3-0 (9), K Donaghy 0-2-1 (7), K McKernan 0-2-1 (7), E Callaghan 1-0-0 (6), T Kennelly 0-1-0 (3), B Murphy 0-1-0 (3), P Hanley 0-0-1 (1), D Hughes 0-0-1 (1), Z Tuohy 0-0-1 (1). Australia: B Greene 1-1-2 (11), S Milne 0-2-0 (6), M Robinson 0-1-1 (4), R Douglas 0-1-1 (4), A Monfries 0-1-0 (3), R Gray 0-1-0 (3), R Nahas 0-1-0 (3), M Nicoski 0-0-1 (1), T McKenzie 0-0-1 (1).
Ireland -- S Cluxton (Dublin); C McKeever (Armagh), F Hanley (Galway), N McGee (Donegal); K McKernan (Down), P Hanley (Brisbane Lions & Mayo); C Begley (Laois); Z Tuohy (Carlton & Laois), T Kennelly (Sydney Swans & Kerry); L Glynn (Wicklow), T Walsh (Sydney Swans & Kerry), Joe McMahon (Tyrone); M Murphy (Donegal), K Donaghy (Kerry), S McDonnell (Armagh).
Interchange: E Bolton (Kildare), E Cadogan (Cork), E Callaghan (Kildare), D Hughes (Monaghan), P Kelly (Cork), B Murphy (Carlow), K Reilly (Meath), A Walsh (Cork).
Australia -- M Suckling (Hawthorn); D Wojcinski (Geelong), J Kelly (Geelong), E Wood (Western Bulldogs); J King (Richmond), J Frawley (Melbourne), A Swallow (North Melbourne); Z Smith (Gold Coast), B Vince (Adelaide); M Robinson (Carlton), A Monfries (Essendon), B McGlynn (Sydney Swans); B Green (Melbourne), S Grigg (Richmond), R Hahas (Richmond).
Interchange: L Shiels (Hawthorn), M Nicoski (West Coast), J Trengove (Melbourne), T McKenzie (Gold Coast), C Ward (Greater Western Sydney), R Gray (Port Adelaide), R Douglas (Adelaide), S Milne (St.Kilda).
Refs -- D Coldrick (Meath) and R Chamberlain (Melbourne).