Horgan leads Ireland to victory despite late stumble

Horgan leads Ireland to victory despite late stumble

Hurling/Shinty International Series First Test: Ireland 3-10 (25) Scotland 2-9 (19)

Ireland will take a six-point lead into next week's Hurling/Shinty International Series second Test in Ennis, but the visitors' advantage would have been far greater had it not been for a dramatic comeback from the Scots in a hectic finish to Saturday's clash in Bught Park, Inverness.

Inspired by an incredible performance from Cork's Patrick Horgan - the Glen Rovers man hit a superb hat-trick and registered 3-8 of his side's total - Ireland were 16 points clear with minutes remaining when they were hit by two late goals having coped admirably in defence for most of the 80 minutes.

Horgan, whose two early goals helped Ireland into a comfortable 2-6 to 0-6 half-time lead, completed his hat-trick on 75 minutes with a brilliant finish from a tight angle and the visitors appeared to be cruising to a big win.

However, Drew McNeill's side hit back with an unexpected late surge, Kevin Bartlett smashing a goal past Bernard Rochford in the 80th minute, and then Neil MacDonald adding a second five-pointer direct from a long-range free in added time to stun the Irish.

Ireland made the best possible start, Cork forward Horgan finding the back of the hosts' net (a goal is worth five points under the new rules) after just four minutes with a smart flicked finish.

Scotland struggled in the opening stages and racked up a string of wides, although Bartlett did get them off the mark with a score from a placed ball (worth two points when struck off the ground).

However, it was one-way traffic for most of the first half, as Horgan continued to cause chaos, and it was little surprise when the Glen Rovers clubman grabbed a second five-pointer on 16 minutes, leaving his side 2-3 to 0-2 ahead.

Scotland had hit five poor wides in the opening quarter hour, while Irish goalkeeper Bernard Rochford (Kerry) was forced into action just once, making a fine save from Keith MacRae.

McNeill's charges eventually found their range in the 23rd minute, Bartlett clipping over a second free before Steven MacDonald added his name to the scoresheet, leaving just seven points (2-3 to 0-6) in it.

Eventually, Shane Dooley got in on the scoring act for the Irish, his free ensuring the livewire Horgan, who hit 2-5 (15) in the opening 40 minutes, wasn't the only green and white-clad player to score in the first half. Dooley's 35th minute free gave John Meyler and Michael Walsh's side a deserved 2-6 (16) to 0-6 (6) lead at the change of ends.

Scotland tightened up in defence after the break and Ireland were denied the space they had been afforded in the first 40 minutes. However, the hosts continued to miss chances, with Keith MacRae blasting a shot wide, while Shaun Nicolson and MacRae forced further fine saves from Rochford just after the hour mark.

Twelve second half minutes elapsed before Bartlett found the target for the Scots, while Ireland had to wait 20 full minutes before adding to their tally, Horgan increasing his haul with another free.

Scotland's first score from play all afternoon came in the 64th minute, when Niall McPhee struck a fine shot over the bar to cut Ireland's lead to 2-7 to 0-9. As a unit, though, the Irish defence performed excellently, with captain Eoin Price, Tommy Walsh and Neil McManus all putting in excellent shifts.

Two quickfire scores from McManus and Horgan inched the visitors further ahead, before Horgan added a third goal with five minutes remaining, his drop-shot from a tight angle after great link-up play Price nestling in the top corner.

Ireland were 16 clear and free-wheeling towards the line when they were hit by a late sucker-punch, Bartlett robbing Tommy Walsh of the ball and hammering past Rochford. A minute later, Rochford was again reaching into the back of the net when he misjudged Steven MacDonald's long-range free.

It was a disappointing end to the game for the Irish, but captain Price nevertheless collected the Marine Harvest trophy after the game. He and joint managers Meyler and Walsh will be looking for far greater reward in Cusack Park next week.

Ireland Scorers: P Horgan 3-8 (23), S Dooley 0-1 (1), N McManus 0-1 (1).

Scotland Scorers: K Bartlett 1-6 (11), N MacDonald 1-0 (5), S McDonald 0-1 (2), N MacPhee 0-1 (1).

Ireland: Bernard Rochford (Kerry), Joseph Clarke (Westmeath), Ciarán Clifford (Armagh), Steven Clynch (Meath), Shane Dooley (Offaly), Cormac Donnelly (Antrim), Shane Fennell (Louth), Patrick Horgan (Cork), Neil McManus (Antrim), Barry McFall (Antrim), Tom Murnane (Kerry), Brendan Murtagh (Westmeath), Darragh O'Connell (Kerry), Patrick Maher (Tipperary), Eoin Price (captain, Westmeath), Paudie Reidy (Kildare), Des Shaw (Carlow), Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny).

Scotland: Kevin Bartlett (Caberfeidh), Niall MacPhee (Fort William), John Barr (Glenurquhart), Stuart MacKintosh (Glenurquhart), David Smart (Glenurquhart), Louis Munro (Kingussie), Mark MacDonald (Kinlochshiel), Finlay MacRae (Kinlochshiel), Keith MacRae (Kinlochshiel), Donald Irvine (Kyles Athletic), Neil MacDonald (Lochaber), Shaun Nicolson (Lochaber), Callum Cruden (Lovat), Drew Howie (Lovat), Stuart MacDonald (Lovat), Norman Campbell (Newtonmore), Steven MacDonald (Newtonmore), John Stewart (Kilmallie) and Daniel Cameron (Oban Camanachd).

Referee: Billy Wotherspoon (Scotland)