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Ireland ease to record Test win in Melbourne

Ireland ease to record Test win in Melbourne

International Rules First TestAustralia 36 (1-8-6) Ireland 80 (4-17-5)

Ireland made the perfect start to the 2011 International Rules Series, claiming a record 44-point win over Australia in Friday's first Test at the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.

The victory sets Anthony Tohill's side up perfectly to reclaim the Cormac McAnallen Cup ahead of the second Test at the Gold Coast next Friday.

Ireland dominated throughout, leading 44-20 at half-time after Michael Murphy and Eamonn Callaghan moved the visitors into a commanding early lead with well-taken goals before Australia hit back with a Brad Green six-pointer just before the break.

Ireland extended their advantage to 59-26 at the end of the third quarter, before Leighton Glynn and Ireland's top scorer with 18 points, Steven McDonnell, hit the back of the net late in the game to secure a record-breaking win.

Australia struggled with almost every facet of the compromise game and were 19-1 down, having kicked numerous wides, before they managed to register an over through one of their top performers, Stephen Milne, at the end of the first quarter.

Ireland had no such problems and manager Tohill seemed to have learned his lessons from last year's humbling two Test defeats on home soil, as Ireland shifted the ball slickly and utilsied the kick pass brilliantly to expose the Australians' inexperience.

McDonnell, last year's captain who was playing in his fifth series, was brilliant in attack for Ireland, capping a stand-out performance with a sweet late goal, while recent Sydney Swans recruit Tommy Walsh was, arguably, Ireland's best player. Indeed, all of Ireland's AFL players, including Zac Tuohy and Pearse Hanley, contributed handsomely to the win.

Ireland had targeted a positive start to the game after last year's abysmal opening Test in Limerick, and they got it thanks to early overs from Walsh, Leighton Glynn and Michael Murphy, who put the finishing touches on slick passing moves. The Irish players offloaded the ball as quickly as possible to avoid the tackle and the tactic paid.

But it was the visitors' ability to control the round ball with perfectly placed kick passing that really destroyed the Australians. Goalkeeper and captain Stephen Cluxton played the ball more than any other player in the first quarter and with his razor sharp distribution, Ireland dominated from the back.

Cluxton, however, was responsible for the Aussies' only goal of the game, when the Dublin goalkeeper gave an ill-judged pass across his own goal, allowing the home team's skipper, Brad Green, to sneak in for a valuable six points on the stroke of half-time.

The goal came just at a point when the Australians appeared to be coming back into the game, David Wojcinski, Richard Douglas and Mitch Robinson having finally found their range after some erratic early shooting.

McDonnell, though, had the final say of the half and his three-pointer left 24 points between the sides at the break.

The third quarter was marred by an injury to Kildare's Emmet Bolton, but Ireland regained the momentum and steamed further ahead when Kieran Donaghy, Glynn and Kevin McKernan all scored overs in quick succession.

Milne opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer for the Aussies, but there was further punishment to come for Rodney Eade's men when Glynn rifled a shot to the top corner past the home goalkeeper, Matthew Suckling, who struggled in the unfamiliar role.

When McDonnell added a fourth goal for Ireland with five minutes left - a deft finish from a tight angle after a clever dummy - it was a case of damage limitation ahead of the second Test for the Australians.

However, with the series win in sight, the Irish players showed little mercy and McDonnell and Carlow's Brendan Murphy chipped in with late overs to seal the 44-point win, which is a record for a single Test since the inception of the International Rules Series.

The victory also leaves Ireland 17-16 ahead in Test games and poised to reclaim a trophy they last held in 2008 at the Gold Coast next week.

Ireland: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin), Leighton Glynn (Wicklow), Brendan Murphy (Carlow), Colm Begley (Laois), Kevin Reilly (Meath), Neil McGee (Donegal), Michael Murphy (Donegal), Steven McDonnell (Armagh), Ciarán McKeever (Armagh), Kevin McKernan (Down), Joe McMahon (Tyrone), Darren Hughes (Monaghan), Finian Hanley (Galway), Eoin Cadogan (Cork), Aidan Walsh (Cork), Patrick Kelly (Cork), Eamon Callaghan (Kildare), Kieran Donaghy (Kerry), Tommy Walsh (Kerry/St Kilda), Zach Touhy (Laois/Carlton), Tadhg Kennelly (Kerry/Sydney Swans), Pearse Hanley (Mayo/Brisbane Lions), Emmet Bolton (Kildare).

Australia: Richard Douglas (Adelaide Crows), James Frawley (Melbourne), Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Brad Green (Melbourne), Shaun Grigg (Richmond), James Kelly (Geelong Cats), Jake King (Richmond), Ben McGlynn (Sydney Swans), Trent McKenzie (Gold Coast Suns), Stephen Milne (St Kilda), Angus Monfries (Essendon), Robin Nahas (Richmond), Mark Nicoski (West Coast), Mitch Robinson (Carlton), Liam Shiels (Hawthorn), Zac Smith (Gold Coast Suns), Matthew Suckling (Hawthorn), Andrew Swallow (North Melbourne), Jack Trengove (Melbourne), Bernie Vince (Adelaide Crows), Callan Ward (GWS Giants), David Wojcinski (Geelong Cats), Easton Wood (Western Bulldogs).

Attendance: 22,921