Sunday 8 December 2019

Rules clash suffers from lack of passion

Australia 47 (0-14-5) Ireland 40 (1-8-10)

Australia's Adam Goodes jumps highest against Brendan Donaghy of Ireland during last night's International Rules Test at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo: Alan Place
Australia's Adam Goodes jumps highest against Brendan Donaghy of Ireland during last night's International Rules Test at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick. Photo: Alan Place

DAMIAN LAWLOR at the Gaelic Grounds

THE PR and marketing gurus did their job in attracting a near full-house to the Gaelic Grounds for last night's International Rules Test but sadly the on-field action failed to catch fire in a poor opener.

There was plenty of razzmatazz on offer but the standard of play was awful at times and no amount of showbiz could mask the fact that the groaning crowd was left underwhelmed by events as the home side suffered a seven -point defeat.

It could have been much more; Australia were worthy winners in a game that was one of the lowest scoring in Test history. It was a contest that had not one noteworthy tackle, few quality scores and scarcely a sniff of goalmouth action. Marquee players like Kieran Donaghy and Paul Galvin were sorely missed last night as Ireland lacked a cutting edge in front of the posts.

Ireland's passing was poor, they failed to make marks in crucial positions and they looked blunt in attack. They are not out of this series yet after a flurry of late scores, but the Australians looked more comfortable in their shooting boots with Adam Goodes on fire with 12 points from play. Only for a late Bernard Brogan goal, the home side would have little hope next weekend in Croke Park.

Last night's game was extremely sanitised, unlike in years gone by when it was a free for all. This time you were more likely to pick up a handshake from an opponent rather than a crushing tackle as both teams treaded warily.

This lack of bite affected the atmosphere in a Gaelic Grounds that welcomed around 34,000 people into its confines. A deathly silence had descended on the pitch by the end of the first quarter as the Irish team fell 12 points to six behind in a distinctly underwhelming beginning.

Both teams struggled to get to grips with the hybrid game; Ireland looked weak under the dropping ball and were knocked out of the tackle several times by the visitors whilst attempting marks.

Australia looked much happier under the high ball and were more economic with their shooting, but the early exchanges were closely contested as both teams got used to their surroundings.

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One disappointment for Ireland in the opening exchanges was that they only managed two marks in the scoring zone. In the last two Tests Ireland only managed 40 and 51 points and the hope this time was that Anthony Tohill's men would offer a more prolific threat. Not so. At the end of the first quarter they trailed 12-9.

Sean Cavanagh will be disappointed that he didn't tack up a big score in the second quarter, but he kicked one wide and three behinds. He wasn't the only one to spurn opportunities as the Irish failed to move the ball quickly in attack; Michael Murphy was taken off early while Martin Clarke, Tadhg Kennelly and Stevie McDonnell all had chances to hit more points but in a tame first half, those chances went abegging .

The exception to the rule was Leighton Glynn. The industrious Wicklow man covered an amount of ground and carried the challenge to the Aussies time and again. Stephen Cluxton looked comfortable and assured as the game progressed but in front of him, little was happening.

Daniel Goulding shot the only over of the second quarter for the Irish side but in contrast Australia hit three: Goodes, Eddie Betts and Todd Banfield all obliging.

They had surged 21-16 ahead by the half time break, courtesy of sharp shooting and seven overs.

But it was poor entertainment. Neither side created a goal chance, there was plenty of clean possession without much penetration. Irish sharpshooters like Bernard Brogan, Martin Clarke, Kennelly, McDonnell and Cavanagh all failed to hit the heights they were capable of, their side recording seven behinds in the opening half.

The third quarter was even worse: Ireland only managed two overs from Tommy Walsh and Glynn and went over 10 minutes without registering a score. The standard of play from both sides was extremely poor but Leigh Montagna caught fire with two fantastic overs for the visitors. It was enough to leave them 32-22 ahead with the final quarter approaching.

The Aussies looked more and more comfortable as the final whistle drew near, butBrogan's late offers at least some hope for the second Test. There's a lot of work to be done next Saturday.

Scorers -- Ireland: B Brogan (9), S McDonnell (8), S Cavanagh (7), D Goulding (3), T Walsh (4), L Glynn (3), K McKernan (3), K Reilly (1), M Clarke (1), T Kennelly (1), Australia: A Goodes (12), D Cross (6), E Betts (6), T Banfield (6), L Montagna (6), J Frawley (3), P Dangerfield (3), M Boyd (2), K Simpson (2), K Jack (1)

Ireland: S Cluxton, C McKeever, F Hanley, B Donaghy, S McDermott, G Canty, K Reilly, C Begley, T Kennelly, L Glynn, S McDonnell, S Cavanagh, B Brogan, T Walsh, M Clarke. Subs used: E Bolton, K McKernan, C McKeever, P Keenan, B Murphy, M Murphy, N McNamee, J Kavanagh, , D Goulding,

Australia: T Varcoe, B Gibbs, J McVeigh, D Cross, M Boyd, K Simpson, J Frawley, J Riewoldt, G Ibbotson, L Montagna, S Gilbert, K Jack. Subs used: T Banfield, B Green, E Betts, D Fletcher, P Dangerfield, D Swan, A Goodes, D Wojcinski, P Duffield.

Referees: D Coldrick (Ireland), B Rosebury (Australia)

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