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Slick-moving Australians give Tohill plenty to think about before second leg

ANTHONY TOHILL didn't attempt to disguise the reality that Ireland found so many aspects of Saturday night's game extremely difficult, and that they are lucky to be as close to Australia heading into the second Test.

So what went wrong, Anthony? A pause, followed by wry smile. "How long have you got?"

Tohill, one of Ireland's greatest International Rules players, was now looking at life from a different perspective and was disappointed by what he had seen.

"We seemed to be very nervous and made a lot more mistakes than we would have liked. Australia made it very difficult and showed what they can do but, in the end, our lads showed what they can do when they put their minds to it," he said.

As to why it took Ireland so long to inject real coherence into their game, Tohill said the Australians presented a huge challenge through their slick combination of attacking together and defending together.

"They had numbers on us at times. We were outnumbered in a lot of contests and they worked the ball well into the scoring zone. We were trying the same but it didn't work as well," he said. "We both had 19 scores but 10 of ours were 'behinds' which made a big difference. That's an area we have to work on. We created enough scoring opportunities but Australia took theirs better."

Commenting on Ireland's soccer-style approach, captain Steven McDonnell accepted that it didn't really work. "You can use soccer skills at certain times in this game, but maybe we overelaborated at times and didn't play the ball into our hands as much as we should," he said.

Fresh from his success with Collingwood in the AFL Grand Final, Australian manager Mick Malthouse said his side had anticipated that Ireland would keep the ball on the ground as much as possible.

"With a round ball, it (soccer-style) was always going to be used as a counter against tackling. We expected it to be on the deck," he said. "A lot of our boys love playing soccer, but I think the effectiveness of us getting our hands on the ball meant that we had more control than with a soccer kick."

Describing Ireland's situation as similar to a Gaelic football match where a team got a draw they didn't deserve, Tohill said everything was still to play for in Croke Park next Saturday, a situation which looked unlikely midway through the final quarter.

So Bernard Brogan's goal was that important? "It might just have saved the series. If we hadn't got it, we were in a bad position. It got us out of a massive hole and leaves us sitting nicely, even though we played quite poorly."

Irish Independent