A late Bernard Brogan goal kept the International Rules series alive, but Australia will go into next weekend’s second and final Test knowing that a repeat of this superb kicking performance will be more than enough to regain the Cormac McAnallen Cup.
Mick Malthouse’s visitors were by far the better team throughout an entirely forgettable game which only came to life minutes from the end when Ireland staged an unlikely rally.
In the end the gap was reduced to seven, but the Adam Goodes led Aussies can take a lot of encouragement from this excellent performance.
Overs (three-pointers) from captain Goodes, James Frawley and Daniel Cross fired Australia in front, and by the end of the first quarter the visitors had established a 12 point lead.
The Mexican waves had begun in the crowd by the time the second quarter was five minutes old, but the 30,177 finally had something to cheer when Daniel Goulding kicked an Irish over.
Ireland’s kicking was shockingly awry throughout this game though, and despite dominating large parts of the second quarter, Anthony Tohill’s men went in at half time trailing by five.
It was 10 minutes into the third quarter before the accurate Australians finally kicked their first behind (one pointer), but the brilliant Leigh Montagna lifted his side with two outstanding long-range overs.
Carlton’s Eddie Betts followed suit minutes later with another superbly taken score, and the Aussies were completely on top leading by 13 points.
The series should have been put completely beyond Ireland’s reach in the fourth quarter when Man of the Match Goodes unluckily saw a fisted effort for goal come firing back off the Irish crossbar.
This miss almost seemed to inspire Ireland, and a late rally of overs, behinds and a magnificent individual effort from Brogan ensured at least some interest in next week’s final Test at Croke Park. On this evidence, however, the attendance might not be spectacular.
Irish coach Tohill agreed that his side’s late rally had rescued the series from being completely beyond salvaging next Saturday night.
“We found it tough to counter the Aussies and it looked like the series was beyond us,” he admitted.
“But the lads dug deep, we threw caution to the wind and it puts us in a decent position for the second Test.
“With 10 minutes to go, it was looking very poor from our perspective. We were nervous and edgy throughout the first three quarters – we were a bit lacking in passion and it is something we are going to have to address for the next game.
“Thankfully we got the goal at the right time and it was a superb strike from Bernard. In the final minutes we poured forward, we put the Aussies under a fair bit of pressure and we got a few scores.”
While Tohill had every right to be disappointed with his side’s display, Aussie boss Malthouse had every reason to be delighted with his team’s effort despite throwing away much of their accrued advantage late in the game.
“It’s just an idiosyncrasy of the game. There can be quick scoring, there can be a rush,” the Premiership-winning Magpies boss said.
“Once the under was scored, the crowd got involved. I still thought we had enough control of the ball so we could win the game.
“There’s always a tendency to overload your back half but I think sometimes that’s a panic and we just backed our forwards to stay where they were and backed our midfielders to get the ball to them.”
All will be decided next Saturday night at GAA headquarters.
International Rules Series – First Test
Ireland (1 – 8 – 10) 40
Australia (0 – 14 – 5) 47
from Aaron Dunne at Pairc na nGael, Limerick