Irish Daily Mail International Rules First Test: Ireland 57 (2-12-9) Australia 35 (1-7-8)
Ireland will take a 22-point lead into next weekend’s second Test at Croke Park after comfortably beating Australia in the series opener at Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday night.
Ireland dominated the first half and were 29-9 ahead at the long break. The hosts extended that advantage to 24 points when Zach Tuohy hit the back of the net in the 47th minute before the Australians mounted a spirited comeback and had the gap down to eight (39-31) a minute into the fourth quarter.
Jake Neade’s goal three minutes from the end of the third quarter was the start of a super purple patch for the visitors, who hit 14 points in a row to make a real game of it. However, Ireland snaffled a second six-pointer, through Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin, 14 minutes into the final quarter to seal the win.
Ireland had much the better of the first 18-minute period and were 17-4 ahead at the first hooter. Ross Munnelly, who kicked two excellent overs and set up another for Loais team-mate Colm Begley, was the outstanding player on show.
Michael Murphy opened the scoring with a well-taken over before the impressive Steven Motlop hit back for the visitors. However, Mick O’Loughlin’s side struggled in the opening half and failed to pose any real danger for the home defence.
The first real goal chance of a one-sided first half came in the 28th minute when Jack McCaffrey punched a hole in the Aussies’ defence with a searing run, but Donegal’s Paddy McBrearty was forced wide when he had the goal at his mercy.
Australia’s $10 (AUS) man Lance Franklin showed flashes of his ability and hit an over and a behind to reduce the gap, but when Seán Cavanagh, winning his 11th international cap, drove over his first over of the game, Ireland led by 29-9 at the break.
Paul Flynn and Motlop traded overs at the start of the third quarter, before Ireland had another goal chance, but Cavanagh was denied by a fine save from Australian goalkeeper Ashley McGrath.
Ireland found a way through on 47 minutes, when Colm Boyle found Tuohy and the Laois man, who plays for Carlton in the AFL, powered through the visitors’ defence and drove a shot beyond the hapless McGrath. At that stage, Paul Earley’s side were 39-14 ahead and coasting.
The tourists then came to life, hitting 13 points without reply in the final three minutes of the third quarter. Eddie Betts did the damage for their goal, using his pace to find space on the endline before popping a pass to Jake Neade, who rolled the ball to the back of Paddy O’Rourke’s net.
Lewis Jetta and Alwyn Davey then added further overs to the Australians’ tally, before Franklin knocked over a behind almost two minutes into third quarter added time to leave the score at the three-quarter marker Ireland 39 Australia 27.
Dominic Barry pulled another point back for the tourists, but they should have added a second goal five minutes into the final quarter when their star player, Motlop, was played clear on goal but blazed a shot off the bar when it seemed harder to miss. Ireland breathed a huge sigh of relief but were under severe pressure.
Ciarán Sheehan eased that pressure when he hit a crucial over six minutes from the end, curling the ball over after Conor McManus flicked the ball into his path. Four minutes later, Ireland had a second goal when Kevin McLoughlin won a loose ball and placed a shot past McGrath to put his side 49-32 ahead.
Colm Boyle and Conor McManus added further overs in the closing stages for the Irish, who will take a 22-point lead into next Saturday’s second Test.
Scorers for Australia: S Motlop 8 (0-2-2), J Neade 6 (1-0-0), L Franklin 6 (0-1-3), L Jetta 6 (0-2-0), M Stokes 3 (0-1-0), Alwyn Davey 3 (0-1-0), D Barry 1 (0-0-1), Aaron Davey 1 (0-0-1), D Wells 1 (0-0-1).
Scorers for Ireland: R Munnelly 9 (0-2-3), M Murphy 7 (0-2-1), Z Tuohy 6 (1-0-0), K McLoughlin 6 (1-0-0), C McManus 5 (0-1-2), C Sheehan 4 (0-1-1), C Byrne 4 (0-1-1), C Begley 3 (0-1-0), C Boyle 3 (0-1-0), A O’Shea 3 (0-1-0), S Cavanagh 3 (0-1-0), P Flynn 3 (0-1-0), J McCaffrey 1 (0-0-1).
Australia: A McGrath; C Yarran, T Armstrong, C Ellis-Yollman; J Harbrow, N Lovett-Murray, Lewis Jetta; D Wells, L Franklin; M Stokes, J Hill, Aaron Davey; S Motlop, L Thomas, E Betts.
Interchange Players: Leroy Jetta, S Welligham, S Edwards, Alwyn Davey, J Neade, D Batty.
Ireland: P O’Rourke; N McGee, F Hanley, C McKaigue; L Keegan, Z Tuohy, J McCaffrey; A Walsh, S Cavanagh; P Flynn, C Byrne, C Sheehan; P McBrearty, M Murphy, R Munnelly.
Interchange Players: C Begley, C Boyle, P Conroy, C Kilkenny, K McLoughlin, C MacManus, A O’Shea, M Shields.
Referees: Maurice Deegan (Ireland), Matt Stevic (Australia).