It resulted from the cumulative effect of a number of factors, primarily a significant improvement in their team play and their finishing which was directly attributable to some key switches in attack and a typical show of character.
Conversely, Ireland’s failure to capitalise on goal chances at different stages contributed hugely to the outcome and ultimately cost them the game.
Irish manager John O’Keeffe had highlighted the importance of goal scoring last week and he repeated the message afterwards.
“We created more goal chances but we failed to take them, while the Australians took theirs brilliantly. That was really the crunch. If you don’t take your opportunities you pay the price,” he commented.
At the start of the game, the best the visitors could manage was to match Ireland’s opening scores from Tadhg Kennelly and Graham Geraghty, following which they waited until the opening minute of the final quarter before going in front for the first time.
With Anthony Lynch and Trevor Giles quick to exert their influence in defence, Darragh Ó Sé combining well with Seamus Moynihan at midfield and Padraig Joyce and Dessie Dolan prominent in an attack, Ireland quickly gained a grip.
Finishing the quarter 21/10 in front, they could have been in a stronger position but for Graham Geraghty having a goal chance smothered by excellent keeper Andrew Kellaway and Ó Sé twice failing to put the ball in the net in the same move.
Based on the way the home team’s more constructive play eased them into an increasing lead, there were genuine prospects of a whitewash as the Australians experienced continuing difficulties in creating scoring chances.
And, in general they were struggling to get their game going, showing greater difficulty in controlling the ball in slippery conditions than they were to later on. Lynch was involved in a lot of the play in the Irish defence and Kieran McGeeney was making some good clearances.
A margin of 19 points (38/19) separated the sides at the break and it wasn’t looking good for Australia.
So, what did manager Gary Lyon say to his team at half-time, given that he presumed that most people watching the game at midnight back home would have gone to bed by then.
“They were playing with a steely resolve and I told the boys I was proud at the way they stuck at it. I said it wasn’t a 19/38 game and I kept them positive.
” What the restructuring mainly involved was moving big midfielder Matthew Pavlich up to the full forward line, along with Chris Johnson from defence.
In less than 10 minutes the pair had combined to produce the first of two Australian goals with Johnson making the opening after he dispossessed McGeeney. Then, two quick overs (three pointers) had the deficit down to four points.
By how the visitors were much better organised around the pitch, tackling better, moving the ball forward more purposefully and putting the Irish defence under serious pressure. They were also scoring more freely and by the end of the third quarter trailed by just two points, 45/43.
John O’Keeffe said as much. “The Aussies had the power and were running much harder in the final quarter.”
On a more hopeful note he added: “it’s still only half time and we have to look forward to the second half.”
Scorers: Australia M. Pavlich 17, N. Brown 15, D. Kerr 10, C. Johnson 7, A. Yze 6, C. Judd and L. Darcy 4 each, C. Bradley and C. Bruce 1 each.
Ireland: D. Dolan 12, T. Kennelly 11, P. Joyce 9, B.J. O’Sullivan 6, C. McManus 5, R. Cosgrove, D. Savage and G. Geraghty 3 each, D. O Se 4, J. Bergin 2.
AUSTRALIA: A. Kellaway; M. Bickley, J. Clement, M. Scarlett; B. Scott, C. Bruce, C. Johnson; M. Pavlich, S. Crawford (capt.); D. Kerr, A. Yze, C. Judd; S. Milne, D. Neitz, N. Brown. Inter change: C. Bradley, B. Montgomery, J. Francou, T. Edwards, L. Darcy, A. Simpson, A. Lekkas, C. Ling.
IRELAND: P. Burke (Mayo); A. Rainbow (Kildare), G. Canty (Cork), A. Lynch (do); E. O’Hara (Sligo), K. McGeeney (Armagh), T. Giles (Meath); S. Moynihan (Kerry, capt.), D. O Se (do); E. Kelly (Meath), T. Kennelly (Kerry and Sydney Swans), J. Bergin (Galway); P. Joyce (do), C. McManus (Offaly), G. Geraghty (Meath). Inter change players: B.J. O’Sullivan (Cork), D. Dolan (Westmeath), R. Cosgrove (Dublin), C. McAnallen (Tyrone), P. McGrane (Armagh), D. Meehan (Galway), T. O Se (Kerry), D. Savage (Galway).
Referees: Brian White (Ireland) and Scott McLaren (Australia).
*Before the game a minute’s silence was observed in memory of the victims of the bombing in Bali.