AUSTRALIA 53 (0-15-8)
IRELAND 50 (2-10-8)
Australia win series 2-0, by 13 points aggregate.
This will and should sting Ireland for some time to come, writes John Fogarty.
Ten points up in the second quarter of the first test, 16 points up at the start of the third here in Perth, it will truly be a case of the what-might-have-beens.
Inexperience, in the end, ultimately cost Ireland.
Darren Hughes, called up late, hardly disappointed despite only arriving on Wednesday while another 11th hour call-up Ciarán Sheehan was sharp – Hughes’ Monaghan team-mate Karl O’Connell had made way so that Sheehan, Hughes as well as fit-again Enda Smith and Niall Murphy could play – but it was the first-timers who again struggled.
This was one of the greenest Ireland squads ever brought to Australia and both Joe Kernan and Aidan O’Shea alluded to that in the post-match remarks.
It may well be that Ireland benefit from this transitional series next year or whenever the next meeting is arranged although the disappointing 30,116 crowd – over 8,000 down on the one-off test in the same Subiaco Oval venue three years ago – indicates after another low attendance in Adelaide that the Australian public aren’t all that fussed.
Ironically, this was one of the most entertaining series in recent times and the return of the two-test format greatly contributes to the competition.
It gave Ireland a chance to exorcise the demons of their 10-point loss in Adelaide having purged themselves of the sickness that had affected several of them prior to that game.
When Shane Walsh converted an over in the first minute of the third quarter, Ireland were 33-17 up having claimed two goals in the first quarter to stun the Aussies, Gary Brennan and Chris Barrett the unlikely six-point scorers.
They knew they had rattled the professional players given the row after the end of the second quarter and Joel Selwood’s cynical and shocking foul on Barrett, which saw him black carded.
But just like last week it was after the resumption that the Australians sprung to life. Ireland had been brilliant in spoiling so much ball that the opposition pumped into the D. Nathan Fyfe and Ben Brown were struggling to fetch anything and it wasn’t until Fyfe, his side’s best performer in the first test, went outfield that he made an impact in the game.
Australia changed tact, ran at Ireland and ended up claiming the third quarter, 17 points to 11, doubling their entire total from the first half. Eddie Betts and Chad Wingard made themselves nuisances while Patrick Dangerfield was excellent in retrieving possession to feed the diminutive corner forwards.
A Sheehan over gave Ireland some relief and Conor McManus finished out the quarter with his fourth over but it could have been so much better had Brendon Goddard not stopped a Walsh shot in the 16th minute, his second point blank save of the game.
Ireland would also lose the fourth quarter as they went not just in search of the test victory but the series. Seven points up, 41 to 34, they were only one point to the good by the ninth minute of the final period when Dayne Zorko claimed an over.
Niall Murphy’s inexperience told when spurning what could have been a goal chance and Niall Grimley might have also created an opportunity for a six-pointer later on in the quarter.
But other men on their first trip to Australia were struggling in defence.
While Peter Crowley did a fine job in stifling Fyfe, Brendan Harrison and Niall Sludden experienced difficulties and errors cost scores.
Niall Morgan, a seasoned Rules player at this stage and so good in denying Wingard a goal, was guilty of being too zealous in trying to start an attack soon after Betts had levelled the game at 50 points apiece.
Zorko punished the slip-up and the hooter confirmed a series “sweep” for the AFL outfit.
Such a close-run thing will strengthen the case for the Rules to continue long into the future but when the AFL’s motives aren’t so clear and they do relatively little to promote the hybrid sport here, instead relying a lot on Irish ex-pats to attend, questions must be asked.
[timgcap=Michael Murphy reacts after a missed chance. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson][/timgcap]
Scorers for Australia: Eddie Betts (0-2-3), Dayne Zorko (0-3-0) 9 each; Chad Wingard (0-2-0), Rory Sloane (0-2-0) 6 each; Luke Shuey (0-1-2) 5; Zach Merrett (0-1-1), Ben Brown (0-1-1) 4 each; Rory Laird (0-1-0), Nathan Fyfe (0-1-0), Shaun Burgoyne 3 each; Jack Gunston (0-0-1) 1.
Scorers for Ireland: Conor McManus (0-5-1) 16; Gary Brennan (1-0-1) 7; Chris Barrett (1-0-0), Michael Murphy (0-2-0) 6 each; Shane Walsh (0-1-3) 6; Ciarán Sheehan (0-1-0), Niall Murphy (0-1-0) 3 each; Darren Hughes (0-0-1), Paul Murphy (0-0-1), Niall Murphy (0-0-1) 1 each.
AUSTRALIA: Brendan Goddard (Essendon); Shaun Burgoyne (captain, Hawthorn), Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne); Kade Simpson (Carlton); Rory Laird (Adelaide Crows), Luke Shuey (West Coast Eagles); Dayne Zorko (Brisbane Lions), Shaun Higgins (North Melbourne); Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong Cats), Rory Sloane (Adelaide Crows), Eddie Betts (Adelaide Crows), Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle), Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide), Ben Brown (North Melbourne), Neville Jetta (Melbourne).
Interchanges: Travis Boak (Port Adelaide), Jack Gunston (Hawthorn), Zac Merrett (Essendon), Joel Selwood (Geelong Cats).
Black card: Joel Selwood (second quarter, 17th minute).
IRELAND: Niall Morgan (Edendork, Tyrone); Brendan Harrison (Aghamore, Mayo), Eoin Cadogan (Douglas, Cork), Seán Powter (Douglas, Cork); Ciarán Sheehan (Éire Óg, Cork), Zach Tuohy (Portlaoise/Geelong Cats, Laois), Chris Barrett (Belmullet, Mayo); Kevin Feely (Athy, Kildare), Aidan O’Shea (captain, Breaffy); Shane Walsh (Kilkerrin-Clonberne, Galway), Darren Hughes (Scotstown, Monaghan), Niall Sludden (Dromore, Tyrone); Paul Geaney (Dingle, Kerry), Michael Murphy (Glenswilly, Donegal), Conor McManus (Clontibret, Monaghan).
Interchanges: Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers, Kerry), Killian Clarke (Shercock, Cavan), Paul Murphy (Rathmore, Kerry), Gary Brennan (Clondegad, Clare), Niall Sludden (Rapparees, Armagh), Enda Smith (Boyle, Roscommon), Niall Murphy (Coolera-Strandhill, Sligo), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen, Tipperary).
Referees Maurice Deegan (Laois), Matt Stevic (Victoria).