Australia reclaim Cormac McAnallen Cup

Australia reclaim Cormac McAnallen Cup

Ireland 52 (1-11-13)-55 (0-14-13) Australia (102-92 aggregate)

Australia regained the Cormac McAnallen Cup after a 55-52 defeat of Ireland in the second Test of the 2010 Irish Daily Mail International Rules Series at Croke Park on Saturday night.

The victory gave Mick Malthouse's side a 102-92 aggregate success, following their 47-40 first Test defeat of the home side in Limerick last week.

However, the visitors were made to fight all the way by a gallant Irish side, who ensured a thrilling finale by nearly pulling off an unlikely comeback with a remarkable final quarter performance.

Ultimately, two late 'overs', from Brad Green and Dane Swan, robbed Ireland of their momentum - they had scored 18 points without reply - and handed the Australians a deserved Series win.

Ireland trailed 45-28 late in third quarter and looked to be on the verge of an embarrassing defeat on home turf until James Kavanagh's goal sparked Anthony Tohill's side into life and inspired a scoring purple patch.

Between the final two minutes of the third quarter and the first 11 of the fourth, Ireland hit 10 scores without reply to turn the game on its head. However, a return of just 18 points from that period, including five behinds, ultimately cost Ireland.

Bernard Brogan, who scored the only goal of the first Test, had another great six-point chance with 13 minutes left, but at a time when Ireland were three points down and in command, he skewed his shot behind after Marty Clarke had played him in with a clever pass.

Donegal's Michael Murphy stepped up to the mark to kick two wonderful 'overs', the second of which gave Ireland the lead - 52-48 - in the Test for the first time since the 11th minute and left Ireland needing just three more points to level the aggregate scores.

However, with the 61,000-strong crowd by now whipped into a frenzy, the Australians displayed remarkable professionalism to effectively kill the game. In the AFL a team under pressure and defending will employ a tactic known as the 'two-minute drive', executing short lateral passes to run down the clock and kill the game. The Aussies did it brilliantly in the closing stages, halting the great tide of Irish pressure that so very nearly derailed them.

Dane Swan, who was later awarded the Jim Stynes medal for the Player of the Series, capped a wonderful performance with the 'over' that nudged the Australians ahead on the night, before Brad Green added a grace note at the death, kicking a fine 'over', his fourth of the night, bringing his tally to a stunning 16 points.

It was a disappointing night for Tohill and his team, but the players' courage in dragging themselves off the floor in the final stages, ensuring a brilliant final quarter was the perfect answer to critics of the hybrid game.

The opening exchanges suggested an increase in tempo and intensity for last week's opening Test. Brogan kicked Ireland into the lead with an early 'over' after he was fouled having worked his way behind the Australian defence.

Four successive scores from the visitors, including a fine effort from the impressive Green, saw them move into a 6-4 lead before Tommy Walsh fed Ireland captain Stevie McDonnell, who opted not to take the mark; instead he took his shot on the run and his 'over' gave Ireland the lead. McDonnell had been eager for Ireland to play more Gaelic football and he certainly led by example, his score coming directly from the GAA playbook.

The Australians, however, once again showed just how adept they are with the round ball by necklacing three 'overs' in as many minutes. Montagna, Adam Goodes and Swan all hit the target as the Australians moved into a 16-9 lead at the end of the second quarter.

Benny Coulter's arrival at the start of the second quarter injected some life into the Irish challenge. The 2010 GAA All Star, who missed the first Test with a hamstring injury, is a natural at the hybrid game and it was his vision that nearly produced the opening goal of the evening.

Racing onto an accurate pass, he quickly turned and threaded the ball through to Daniel Goulding, but the Australian goalkeeper, Dustin Fletcher, just beat the Cork man to the ball to clear the danger and prevent what would have been a well-worked score.

After Ireland had once again been profligate when kicking from marks - Colm Begley and Tommy Walsh both hit behinds when three points were on offer at the start of the second quarter - Coulter pointed the way with a monster 'over' from way out the field in the 28th minute.

Ireland had abandoned the soccer-style tactics they employed to avoid the tackle last week in Limerick and looked to move the ball closer to the Australian goal before taking their marks. Kevin McKernan profited from Ireland's new approach, 'marking' a Tadhg Kennelly pass and sending the ball over the bar to reduce the deficit to nine points, 26-17.

Ireland started the third quarter with intent, as Kennelly and Brendan Murphy both hit 'overs', but the Australians began to ease into top gear and completely took over. The Australians, with Green and Banfield to the fore, made a surge for the line, kicking 12 successive points to move 45-28.

Ireland needed some inspiration and it came from the boot of Kildare's James Cavanagh, whose lucky goal reinvigorated the crowd and the home challenge. Kevin McKernan, as is his wont, made a surge from defence and scrapped for the ball, poking it through Brogan's legs and into the path of Kavanagh, who had little to do other than side foot the ball into the empty net.

The comeback the crowd craved so badly followed; ultimately, however, it was the Australians who held their nerve at the death, becoming the third successive touring team to win the Series.

After a redemptive final quarter, Ireland be hopeful of making that four when they head Down Under next year.

Ireland: S Cluxton, C McKeever, F Hanley, B Donaghy; K McKernan, G Canty, K Reilly; C Begley, T Walsh; L Glynn, S McDonnell, T Kennelly; M Clarke, S Cavanagh, B Brogan.

Interchange: D Goulding, J Kavanagh, P Keenan, S McDermott, B Murphy, M Shields, B Coulter.

Scorers for Ireland: Brogan (0-1-2), McDonnell (0-1-1), Walsh (0-3), Begley (0-1-1), Coulter (0-2-0), Murphy (0-1-0), Kennelly (0-1-0), J Kavanagh (1-0-0), S Cavanagh (0-1-2), K McKernan (0-1-2), B Murphy (0-0-1), M Murphy (0-2-0).

Australia: D Fletcher; J Frawley, T Goldsack, G Ibbotson; P Duffield, L Picken, B Gibbs; D Cross, D Swan; T Varcoe, B Green, P Dangerfield; L Montagna, A Goodes, T Banfield.

Interchange: J McVeigh, S Gilbert, K Jack, E Betts, D Wojcinski, J Riewoldt, K Simpson, M Boyd.

Scorers for Australia: Goodes (0-2-1), Green (0-4-4), Banfield (0-2-2), Montagna (0-1-1), Swan (0-3-1), Jack (0-0-1), McVeigh (0-1-1), Dangerfield (0-0-1), Betts (0-1-0), Frawley (0-0-1).

Referees: P McEnaney (Ireland), B Rosebury (Australia).

Attendance: 61, 842