Ireland survive late scare to win Cormac McAnallen Cup
Ireland 56 Australia 52
Ireland withstood a feisty Australian recovery to hold on for a superb four-point win in the International Rules test in Croke Park.
It took a really dogged defensive effort by Joe Kernan’s men, who looked set for a relatively easy victory when they led by 20 points at half-time.
However, Australia gave a much-improved performance in the second half, out-scoring Ireland 29-13. And when Eddie Betts punched the ball to the net four minutes from the end of a great contest to cut Ireland’s advantage to three points, it looked as if the Australians were timing their recovery run to perfection.
However, Ireland dug deep into their reserves of resilience in the closing minutes and a ‘behind’ from team captain, Bernard Brogan added a crucial point. Brogan scored a total of 13 points, Conor McManus top-scored on 17 points while Aidan O’Shea kicked a total of 15 points in the first half.
Clare’s Gary Brennan, Monaghan’s Darren Hughes and Dublin’s Jack McCaffrrey also did extremely well on a night when Ireland made amends for last year’s disappointing 10-point loss in Perth.
Unlike a year ago, Ireland made a great start, scoring their opening goal in the fourth minute. It settled Ireland into a progressive routine, which left the Australians struggling to match them.
Ireland’s passing was crisp and accurate and when they injected real pace into their movement, they were able to create the space, from they got in a succession of shots at goal.
They added five overs in the first quarter to lead by 21-13.
By half-time, they had extended the lead to 20 points (43-23), with another goal from O’Shea and a penalty goal from McManus adding 12 points to their total. Brogan kicked two ‘overs’ to add to the pair he scored in the opening quarter while Lee Keegan closed out the scoring for the half with a trademark finish, which yielded an over, after he found himself in space on the right wing.
The scoring rate dropped considerably in the third quarter, which Australia won 16-7. Their ball winners took control around the middle of the field, driving forward with relentless intent.
The Irish defence came under severe pressure but they stuck gamely to the task, getting in a series of crucial blocks and turnovers.
Australia’s finishing wasn’t anywhere as good as last year but, through sheer weight of numbers, they succeeded in eroding Ireland’s lead. The visitors trailed by 11 points at the end of the third quarter and cut another seven points off the deficit in the final quarter.
However, they had left themselves with too much to do against an Irish squad that held its nerve, despite being under the most intense pressure.
The attendance was 38,386.
Scorers: Ireland: C McManus 17; A O’Shea 15, B Brogan 13, D Connolly 4, L Keegan, D Hughes 3 each, P Kerrigan 1.
Australia: E Betts 14, N Riewoldt, R Gray 10 each, L Breust 4, D Mundy, A Gaff, J Roughead, L Montagna 3 each, J Stringer, T Rockliff 1 each.,
Ireland: N Morgan (Tyrone), E Doyle (Kildare), R O’Carroll (Dublin), P McMahon (Dublin); J McCaffrey (Dublin), E Cadogan (Cork), L Keegan (Mayo); M Quinn (Longford), G Brennan (Clare); M Donnelly (Tyrone), D Connolly (Dublin), P Harte (Tyrone);C McManus (Monaghan), A O’Shea (Mayo), B Brogan (Dublin).
Interchange: D Hughes (Monaghan), C Begley (Laois), P Kerrigan (Cork), C McDonald (Tipperary), J O’Loughlin (Laois), D Walsh (Kerry), P Cribbin (Kildare), P McBrearty (Donegal).