Australia's second-half power wears Ireland down as hosts clinch International Rules Series in Perth
AUSTRALIA...0-15-8 (53) IRELAND…….2-10-8 (50) (Australia win series 116-103)
It was always going to be the tallest of tall orders for the Irish International Rules team and so it proved as they surrendered the Cormac McAnallen Cup to Australia in Perth.
Needing to overturn a ten-point deficit after the first test in Adelaide last Sunday, Ireland gave themselves every chance when they led 30-17 at half-time, but Australia settled into an impressive routine in the second half, gradually wearing down the visitors.
Ireland took a seven point lead into the final quarter but the momentum was now with Australia. The sides were level late on but an ‘over’ by Eddie Betts ensured that Australia won both games.
It was very disappointing for Ireland, who put themselves in a position to win the series, only to lose their way in the third quarter. It wasn’t quite as damaging as in the first Test but Australia still did enough to set themselves up for a winning finish.
Conor McManus, who was awarded the Irish player of the series, was again top scorer on 16 points.
Ireland led 17-11 at the end of the first quarter, having made a decisive break midway through when they struck for two goals in a minute. Gary Brennan scored the first, followed shortly afterwards by second from Chris Barrett, who timed his run from defence perfectly to show up at the end of a good move.
Ireland led 13-1 at that stage but Australia rallied and had cut the deficit to six points heading into the second quarter.
Ireland won an eventful second quarter 13-6, to take a 30-17 into the break. Michael Murphy and Conor McManus scored two ‘overs’ each in a period when Ireland controlled possession well and defended intelligently.
Shane Walsh used his speed to good effect, sprinting away from opponents on a few occasions. Overall, it was an excellent first half by Ireland, who made far fewer mistakes than in Adelaide last Sunday.
Australia lost Joel Selwood on a black card for a head-high tackle on Chris Barrett just before the break, an incident that sparked a clash between the teams as they left the pitch. It was one of a few flashpoints but thankfully common sense prevailed, with both sides re-establishing their discipline.
Australia won the third quarter 17-11, leaving them trailing by seven heading into the final 18 minutes. It was an edgy period for Ireland but they finished well with McManus firing over a delightful ‘over’ from near the sideline.
Shortly before that Walsh’s cracking drive for a goal was saved by Brendon Goddard, who diverted the ball around the post for a ‘behind’.
Scorers: Australia: D Zorko 10, E Betts 9, C Wingard, R Sloane 6 each, Z Merrett 5, L Shuey, B Browne 4 each, N Fyfe, S Burgoyne, R Laird 3 each
Ireland: C McManus 16, G Brennan 7, C Barrett, M Murphy, S Walsh 6 each, C Sheehan, N Grimley 3 each, D Hughes, N Murphy, E Smith 1 each,
IRELAND: N Morgan (Tyrone); B Harrison (Mayo), O Cadogan (Cork), S Powter (Cork); C Sheehan (Cork), Z Tuohy (Geelong & Laois), C Barrett (Mayo); K Feely (Kildare), A O’Shea (Mayo); S Walsh (Galway), D Hughes (Monaghan), N Sludden (Tyrone); P Geaney (Kerry), M Murphy (Donegal), C McManus (Monaghan).
Interchange: G Brennan (Clare), K Clarke (Cavan), P Crowley (Kerry), N Grimley (Armagh). N Murphy (Sligo), P Murphy (Kerry), E Smith (Roscommon), C Sweeney (Tipperary)
AUSTRALIA: B Goddard (Essendon); S Burgoyne (Hawthorn), R Tarrant (North Melbourne), K Simpson (Carlton), R Laird (Adelaide Crows), L Shuey (West Coast Eagles); N Jetta (Melbourne) D Zorko (Brisbane Lions); S Higgins (Geelong); P Dangerfield (Geelong Cats), R Sloane (Adelaide Crows); E Betts (Adelaide Crows), N Fyfe (Fremantle), C Wingard (Port Adelaide), B Brown (North Melbourne)
Interchange: T Boak (Port Adelaide), J Gunston (Hawthorn), Z Merrett (Essendon), J Selwood (Geelong)
Referees: M Deegan (Laois) & M Stevic (Australia)