IRELAND comfortably reclaimed the Cormac McAnallen Cup in the Metrocon Stadium, beating Australia 50-29 in a fraught second Test on the Gold Coast to earn a record series aggregate victory of 65 points.
Doubts over the series’ future will again be raised after the inexperienced Aussies found themselves overrun by a much more organised Ireland team won the game in front of just 12,545 on the Gold Coast.
There were also a few confrontations towards the end of the match although nothing like the scenes which blighted previous incarnations of the experiment.
“It was full-on out there,” Ireland manager, Anthony Tohill admitted afterwards. “I thought for a while it was going to get out of hand. But I’m just glad it’s over.”
Their impressive start to the first quarter besides, the home team never looked likely winners and their lack of technique with the round ball saw them go the guts of two quarters without scoring an ‘over.’
As promised by the Aussies after last week’s hammering in Melbourne, Anthony Tohill’s troops were greeted by a much more aggressive Australian front but in Steven McDonnell, Tommy Walsh and Michael Murphy, Ireland possessed the most effective attackers.
The inexperienced Australians did marginally improve their accuracy in front of goal after their nightmare with the round ball seven days ago, with Brad Green and Zach Smith more than able to convert from close range but Ireland’s all-round dominance saw them effectively cruise to victory.
Clearly, Australia were set on working scoring opportunities close to Stephen Cluxton’s goal but in Kieran McKeever, they found a fire blanket to their intentions.
Ben McGlynn – Australia’s full-back – curtailed the aerial threat of Kieran Donaghy early on but ‘Star’ broke free from his reins later in the game and in Colm Begley, Ireland had the most involved player on the pitch.
The Laois man totaled 22 possessions, the highest of the match, and his use of the ball meant Murphy, McDonnell, Walsh et al were perfectly served in front of goal.
Tadhg Kennelly – who was appearing in his last match on Australian soil after a 10 year AFL career - had a decent goal chance early on saved by Matt Suckling and both Brad Green and Zach Smith started the match witha flurry of scores.
It took Ireland until the 10th minute to take the lead when McDonnell ‘pointed’ from an acute angle after being fouled by Shaun Grigg, who endured a hellish opening at the Killeavey man’s hands, and he repeated the trick just before quarter time, to give the Irish a 12 to eight lead after the first period.
Ireland kept tipping away at the scoreboard but the key score came with five minutes left in the half when Leighton Glynn scored the game’s only goal.
It was McDonnell who found Glynn with a long pass after the Wicklow man had drifted from his marker and he calmly rounded the all-at-sea Suckling and dribbled the ball into the net off his left foot to widen the gap to 12 points.
Kennelly claimed the last score of the half to put Ireland into a 34 to 23 lead at the break.
After that, it was only a case of by how much Ireland would assert their authority and Donaghy eased Ireland into the
second half after a skyscraping catch from Glynn’s delivery as the Aussies continued to struggle with the variation of the Irish delivery and the movement of their inside forward line.
Donaghy’s former Kerry colleague, Walsh, pushed Ireland 17 points clear in the period of the match branded the ‘championship’ quarter in the AFL. In fact, Australia contrived to score just one point over the course of the third quarter.
Finian Hanley and Angus Monfries had the dubious distinction of being the first players to be sin-binned during the series five minutes into the third quarter after the former grappled on the ground with Green near the touchline and Ireland’s vice-captain, Kieran McKeever followed him just minutes later.
And Aussie frustration spilled over towards the end of the quarter when Ireland took exception to a bad challenge on Joe McMahon when a sizeable melee broke out but the confrontations never spilled into all-out violence.