By John Fogarty
AUSTRALIA 63 (2-13-12) IRELAND 53 (1-13-8)
Despite the brilliance of Conor McManus and Michael Murphy, Ireland wilted in the Adelaide heat and have it all to do to retain the International Rules series in next Saturday’s test in Perth.
Watched by 25,502 in the Adelaide Oval, McManus helped himself to 24 points and Murphy 20 but Ireland were outclassed in most areas of the field notwithstanding their 10-point lead early in the second quarter.
Australia led by 15 after a stunning third quarter but Ireland cut the difference to seven points with a strong start, led by Murphy and Geaney who booted three overs between them.
However, a long ball into the Ireland full-back line was allowed to bounce and Luke Shuey was on hand to palm the ball to the net for Australia’s second goal.
McManus and Murphy again led in the closing stages to at least give Ireland a chance in the Subiaco Oval in six days’ time but they will have their work cut out given that the Australians are sure to improve having only come together on Thursday.
Pearse Hanley was passed fit to start after picking up the virus that affected several of the Ireland squad upon arriving in Adelaide, but failed to figure prominently. Sligo’s Niall Murphy and Roscommon’s All-Star midfield nomination Enda Smith were able to tog out due to the bug.
After Gary Ablett’s departure from the squad for personal reasons last week, his fellow Geelong Cats team-mate Joel Selwood also cried out prior to the game with an ankle injury.
Ireland finished the first quarter 14-12 up but were guilty of some sloppy play with kicks going astray after collecting marks and some unnecessary physical exchanges.
McManus and Murphy were in splendid form, though and both helped themselves to overs inside the first four minutes. Murphy’s second over in the 11th minute of the period gave the visitors a three-point cushion before Australia enjoyed a fine four-minute spell to go three up.
However, Ireland rallied with a Niall Sludden behind and a McManus over to hold a slight advantage.
That lead transformed into a 10-point gap by the third minute of the second quarter after McManus sent over a beautiful over following Murphy’s fine goal.
That six-pointer began with a searching ball from Shane Walsh to Paul Geaney who found Pearce Hanley for a mark but the Mayo man had the presence of mind to feed Murphy and his shot was too good for Brendon Goddard.
Australia ended a 10-minute barren spell with a Dayne Zorko over. As Travis Boak and Zach Tuohy exchange a rough exchange, McManus was kicking his fourth over in the eighth minute of the period but it was to be Ireland’s last of the quarter.
Instead, Australia came back into contention with a couple of fine Nathan Fyfe overs and a Ben Brown three-pointer to go into the break one ahead, 28-27.
In tryingly warm conditions, a lack of focus on Ireland’s behalf could only be blamed for losing their advantage and in “the championship” third quarter Australia finished 15 up, 50 to 35. Fyfe’s goal eight minutes into the quarter was the significant score, captain Shaun Burgoyne and Eddie Betts combining to set him up.
Betts himself sent over an over after a fine fetch as Australia’s squeeze on midfield tightened and they regularly found their forwards despite the numbers Ireland were committing to defence.
Betts could have goaled on two occasions but was foiled by Niall Grimley on the first occasion and the post four minutes later, Karl O’Connell clearing off the line. Conor Sweeney became Ireland’s fourth scorer in that time but was guilty of spilling the ball when Michael Murphy set him up for what looked to be a gilt-edged goal chance.
Scorers for Australia: Nathan Fyfe 16 (1-3-1); Chad Wingard 8 (0-2-2); Ben Brown (0-2-0), Luke Shuey (1-0-0), Dayne Zorko (0-2-0) 6 each; Eddie Betts 5 (0-1-2); Patrick Dangerfield, Kade Simpson, Paddy Ryder 3 (0-1-0) each; Zach Merrett, Rory Sloane 2 (0-0-2) each; Michael Hibberd, Jack Gunston, Travis Boak (0-0-1) each.
AUSTRALIA: Brendon Goddard (Essendon); Shane Burgoyne (Hawthorn), Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne), Scott Pendlebury (Collingwood); Kade Simpson (Carlton), Rory Laird (Adelaide Crows), Luke Shuey (West Coast Eagles); Paddy Ryder (Port Adelaide), Dayne Zorko (Brisbane Lions); Michael Hibberd (Melbourne), Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong Cats), Rory Sloane (Adelaide Crows); Eddie Betts (Adelaide Crows), Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle), Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide).
Interchanges: Travis Boak (Port Adelaide), Ben Brown (North Melbourne), Jack Gunston (Hawthorn), Zac Merrett (Essendon), Neville Jetta (Melbourne).
Scorers for Ireland: Conor McManus 24 (0-7-3); Michael Murphy 20 (1-4-2); Conor Sweeney, Paul Geaney 3 (0-1-0) each; Niall Sludden 2 (0-0-2); Shane Walsh 1 (0-0-1).
IRELAND: Niall Morgan (Tyrone); Killian Clarke (Shercock, Cavan), Eoin Cadogan (Douglas, Cork), Brendan Harrison (Aghamore, Mayo); Chris Barrett (Belmullet, Mayo), Zach Tuohy (Portlaoise, Laois/Geelong Cats), Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers, Kerry); Aidan O’Shea (capt, Breaffy, Mayo), Kevin Feely (Athy, Kildare); Pearce Hanley (Ballaghderreen, Mayo/Gold Coast Suns), Niall Sludden (Dromore, Tyrone), Shane Walsh (Kilkerrin-Clonberne, Galway); Paul Geaney (Dingle, Kerry), Michael Murphy (Glenswilly, Donegal), Conor McManus (Clontibret, Monaghan).
Interchanges: Gary Brennan (Clondegad, Clare), Niall Grimley (Madden Raparees, Armagh), Paul Murphy (Rathmore, Kerry), Karl O’Connell (Tyholland, Monaghan), Seán Powter (Douglas, Cork), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen, Tipperary).
Referees: Maurice Deegan (Laois),Matt Stevic (Victoria).