Gantley shunts Shinty stars
IRELAND 57 SCOTLAND 32 IMPRESSIVE Ireland scored their first victory over Scotland in 21 years thanks to an excellent display in yesterday's hurling-shinty international, which served as the curtain-raiser at Croke Park.
Since drawing the Scots at Athenry in 1994, Ireland have endured five consecutive defeats, but it was clear from the early exchanges that the home side were determined to end the drought.
With the imperious Rory Gantley pulling the midfield strings from the outset, Ireland quickly established a healthy advantage.
Although the visitors displayed some impressive groundstrokes, they never looked likely to make up the leeway and Ireland ran out comfortable winners by two goals, 10 overs and 15 behinds to three goals, three overs and five behinds.
Nickey Brennan's charges were helped on their way by an opportunist DJ Carey goal from a free after just 30 seconds - which was worth six points on yesterday's scoring system, identical to the International Rules.
Inside five minutes, the lead had stretched to 13 points before the Scots finally got on the scoreboard when Brendan Cummins brilliantly tipped a Ronald Ross goal effort around the post for a behind.
Shortly after, the stylish Ross broke through the Irish defence and beat Cummins with a powerful drive to narrow the deficit to seven points, but this was as close as his side were to get.
Gantley continued to dictate matters with the help of his two hard-working midfield colleagues, Canice Brennan and David Forde, and the full-forward line of Carey and Charlie Carter put the dominance in possession to good use.
By the 25th minute, Ireland's advantage had stretched to 15 points and Carey increased it by six more when he borrowed Carter's stick to crash home a penalty.
Like every hurling defence in the country, the Scottish backs found the Kilkenny duo too hot to handle, while at the other end Diarmuid O'Sullivan marshalled a dogged defence in which John Carroll and Ollie Moran also excelled.
The visitors' spirits were lifted a little when 36-year-old Willie McDonald found the net in first half injury time, but they still found themselves trailing by 22 points (2-6-8 to 2-1-1) at the interval.
The Highlanders raised their game after the re-start and threatened to make a comeback. Centre-back James Clark got two good overs and a well-taken goal from Ross cut the gap to 11 points in the 42nd minute.
But once again, the home side stepped up several gears and a succession of superb overs from Gantley saw them cruise to a facile win.
Unfortunately, the lop-sided nature of the contest meant the game lacked a competitive edge though there was some nice moments of skill from both teams and Irish boss Brennan is convinced the hybrid game has a future.
``We needed to win here because the Scots have the better of us over the last couple of years and it was nice to do it on a stage like Croke Park,'' he said.
``We wanted to address the situation because the compromise rules is now a high-profile game and this is the only avenue open to hurlers to represent their country. Hopefully, we have found a slot in the calendar where we can stage it.''
MAN OF THE MATCH - Rory Gantley.
SCORERS - Ireland: R Gantley 21; DJ Carey 18; C Carter 12; O Canning 3; D Forde, J Moran, C Brennan 1 each. Scotland: R Ross 13; W McDonald 9; J Clark 8; K Thain, I McKenzie 1 each.
IRELAND - B Cummins (Tipperary); D O'Sullivan (Cork), B Flannery (Tipperary), J Carroll (Tipperary), C Moore (Galway), O Moran (Limerick); C Brennan (Kilkenny), D Forde (Clare), R Gantley (Galway); R McCarthy (Wexford), O Canning (Galway), C McCambridge (Antrim), C Carter (Kilkenny). Subs: J McGarry (Kilkenny) for Cummins, G McGonigle (Derry) for McCarthy, J Moran (Limerick) for McCambridge, M Collins (Derry) for Carter, N Horan (Meath) for Forde.
SCOTLAND - I Anderson; I Borthwick, A Robertson, M McFarlane-Barrow, R Fraser, N Campbell; A Dallas, J Clark, D MacRae; F Inglis, R Ross, W McDonald, K Thain, V Smith. Subs: I McKenzie for MacRae, D Borthwick for Inglis.
REF - D Murphy (Wexford).