By John Fogarty
Joe Kernan has lambasted the performances of referees Maurice Deegan and Matt Stevic in today’s International Rules second test.
The 2002 All-Ireland winning manager did not blame the pair for the defeat of his Ireland team but he was emphatic in his opinion that the pair were poor, stating they didn't do enough to protect 2014 captain Michael Murphy.
“I thought the refereeing was diabolical. Michael Murphy was tortured all day. If you look at last week we had handy frees given against out full-back line for holding men’s hands.
"Murphy was being dragged all through and never got a free. Aidan O’Shea got a forearm smash right in front of the dug-out. It should have been a straight red but it wasn’t even ticked.
“Having said that, the losing of the game was ourselves. In fairness to the Australians, they played very well. Everything we planned to do came up early on.
"We got two early goals and put them on the backfoot. Even in the third quarter when we didn’t play all that well we hung on in there.
"The game was there for the taking in the last quarter. We just didn’t do enough. We were being caught on the ball and we shouldn’t. We should have been moving it. Australia punished big time on that."
Kernan did not see a replay of Joel Selwood’s high and late tackle on Chris Barrett in the second test, which saw the Geelong captain black carded and removed and replaced for the rest of the game.
"The independent video referee adjudged that Selwood should be punished and could now face a fine or a suspension in the AFL's regular season in 2018.
Kernan said he would be personally handing the video of the game to Deegan.
On the treatment dished out to Murphy, he added: “I don’t mind anyone being targeted if they get the cover - he got no cover in there today. We’ll look at the video but I don’t need to see it to know that Murphy was tortured all day.”
Following on from his selector Darragh Ó Sé’s criticism of the lack of promotion for the first test, Kernan was asked about the relatively disappointing 30,116 crowd in the Subiaco Oval.
“I don’t how well the AFL advertised it. They didn’t do a good job in Adelaide. Some buzz out on the field. If we can get 30,000, 40,000, 50,000.... and the closeness – there has been very little between the sides. Overall, it’s good.”
Having been 16 points ahead at the start of the third quarter, Kernan accepted the game was Ireland’s “for the taking”.
He remarked: “In the last quarter we were caught too many times on the ball. You can’t complain about the effort the boys put in. It was first class. A loss of composure at times did cost us.
“We were being caught on the ball and we shouldn’t. We should have been moving it. Australia punished big time on that.
Third quarter, we lost the ball nine times, six times in our own half-back line which you can’t afford to do against a team as good as Australia. You need to move it quicker against boys like that – when they see an opening, they come at you.”
That Ireland didn’t at least claim the second test hurt Kernan too. “We mightn’t deserve to win by 10 points but we deserved to win. It’s very much a case of what might have been.
"We had that game in the palm of our hands and didn’t hold it. Very proud of the boys the way they came back from last week.”
Aidan O'Shea: 'We just got a bit anxious and started to make mistakes'
Inexperience and over-urgency cost Ireland dearly in the fourth quarter, according to captain Aidan O’Shea.
The visitors lead by seven points going into the final 18 minutes only to see Australia perform a three-point turnaround to take not only the series but the second test too.
Mayo star O’Shea felt Ireland were too eager to try and cancel out the 10-point lead the Australians had taken into Perth today.
“Going into the fourth, we were very happy with where we were. We weren’t trying to eradicate their lead early – we knew we were going to have to chip away at them all day.
"In the fourth quarter we went away from what we were doing well and started to move off the mark too early, tried to rush things and getting caught in tackles... the basics that they do really well and we gave them opportunities inside our 40 and it’s just disappointing.”
O’Shea didn’t believe tiredness played a factor in Ireland’s demise. “I think it was more that we started to rush things, we lost our shape a bit.
"Things that were working well for us, getting bodies around the breaking ball, getting our fielders in the right positions and move the ball, we were trying to force things.
“I don’t think it was fatigue, I think we were so anxious to get back the lead. There were seven minutes left and we kicked a couple of balls away that we didn’t need to. I don’t think it was fatigue – we just got a bit anxious and started to make mistakes.”
That Ireland couldn’t hold onto their lead to at least claim the second test was also due to panic, O’Shea admitted. “It (Australia’s winning score) came from a mistake again when we showed urgency.
"We should have won the game today if not the series but maybe a little bit of inexperience (cost us). A lot of boys were playing it for the first time.”
The three-time All-Star chose not to discuss the refereeing performances although Joe Kernan had expressed his fury with their performances.
“Arrah, I’m not going to get into the referee – it was a tough contest between both sides. There were a couple of things maybe but we’re not going to cry over it.
"We had chances to win the game and our own downfall was our own mistakes. Look it, they’re the disappointing aspects. If you look back at the fourth quarter, you could see that.”
On his experience as captain, O’Shea said he was glad Ireland had an opportunity to show their worth after sickness upset their preparations for the first test.
“I really enjoyed today. It’s well documented the upset that we had coming into the first game and that really held us back.
“Having 23 players today and the right focus going into the weekend today was a really good game and I think people can appreciate the quality that was out there today. Look, I really enjoyed coming against those boys.
"They’re serious, serious athletes and I think they enjoyed it as much as we did.”
Australia coach calls for return to three-test format
Australia coach Chris Scott wants the International Rules series to go one game further and return to a three-test format.
Not since 1990 in Australia has there been three tests but the Geelong Cats boss is so enthused about the compromise sport that he would like to see it make a comeback although he accepts it would cause issues.
"I would like to (see it happen). “That’s the short answer but there are complications. There are already some difficulties, it’s off-season for both teams, it’s a long way to go for the travelling team. But I think that’s something we could work through.
"It probably depends on how much people get behind it, if there’s an appetite for it. I think you’d have 30,000 advocates walking away from Domain (Stadium) talking about what an exciting game it was.
"I suspect we’ve got some AFL people thinking, the way the ball pinged up and down the ground, no stoppages … I think the potential for the game is huge."
Scott almost lost his club captain Joel Selwood for the start of the AFL season after he made contact with Chris Barrett late and high.
The independent video referee recommended he be black carded but Selwood, who had only come into the panel having been injured for the first test, was not reported and therefore escaped a suspension.
Fremantle Dockers’ Nathan Fyfe, who picked up the Jim Stynes Medal for best Australian performer (Conor McManus was honoured as Ireland’s finest over the two tests), dismissed the half-time melee as an exhibition of how much each team wanted to win. “We really needed cool heads, there was a bit of spice in the game and they were on top of us. There was a bit of wrestling going on which showed just how much both sides cared about the result.
"But we just needed to compose ourselves and know that in the back end of the game, our fitness would be superior in some ways."