Aussie win marred by Johnson’s madness

Australia 63 Ireland 42

In one moment of madness, he floored Irish players Philip Jordan and Mattie Forde with punches to the face which were condemned by Irish manager Pete McGrath as horrendous and regarded by Sheedy as unacceptable.

And, to rub salt into Irish wounds genuine in the case of the two players, along with Cork's Anthony Lynch who was also hit in the same incident Johnson was able to come back on after being dismissed and receive the Cormac McAnallen trophy with co-captain Andy McLeod. That was after superior football again, laced with an over-aggressive approach in the most physical of the recent tests in the International Rules Series, earned Australia a record 57 points aggregate victory.

While he is likely to be banned from next year's series, the fact that Johnson's action merited no real sanction because the rules permit a replacement increased the fury of the Irish management. Both McGrath and GAA President Sean Kelly agree that this element of the rules needs re-examination, with the manager calling for a 'more meaningful and more punitive' penalty.

Agreeing that he 'didn't like to see anyone getting punched,' Kelly stopped short of publicly denouncing the incident. He didn't wish to focus on individual issues for fear of being 'painted' as a bad loser, he explained. Nevertheless, he accepted that there had been too much violence in the game.

While Pete McGrath marvelled at the Australian play, he felt that some of the tackles on his players went beyond the parameters of sport and had no place in any game. "Our players are amateurs and life and limb were at serious risk. I think that has to be looked at critically,'' he commented.

For his part the Australian manager suggested that his captain's reaction was a response to a lot of 'low tackles' coming in. But, he admitted: "I don't accept it. I would have been annoyed if it had happened to us and I mean that."

It occurred late in the second quarter, at a time when Ireland were starting to struggle. That was after an encouraging start which saw them ahead 13-11 after 20 minutes. By right, they should have been much further in front, but the alertness of home goalkeeper Dustin Fletcher prevented Sean Cavanagh from goaling in the opening minutes. And, shortly afterwards Benny Coulter was unlucky to see a goal disallowed after Padraic Joyce managed to release the ball in time after being tackled.

On television, the Australian referee Mathew James was heard to admit that he made a mistake in not allowing the advantage. Undoubtedly, the loss of the two chances was to have a major bearing on the outcome.

At the time Jordan was struck followed by Forde Australia were leading by nine points. Already, Laois defender Tom Kelly was stamping his class on the game and was one of the few Irish players able to make a major impact. Up front, the forwards were struggling because so little ball was going into them, indicated by the fact that they managed only a single point (from Cooper, pushed as he kicked) before the energetic Ross Munnelly produced four points to leave the half-time score 31-18 in Australia's favour.

The Irish showed a third quarter improvement in tackling and apart from the majestic Kelly (an automatic choice as their 'player of the series'), Ryan McMenamin, Lynch, Sean Cavanagh and Ciaran McManus were all making significant contributions. It marked the squad's best period over the two games, but in real terms, the return was minimal. Five one-pointers were kicked over the course of the 20 minutes, in total 14 points and this highlighted the team's major weakness. Statistics revealed that over the two tests Australia kicked 45 overs, compared to just 22 for Ireland a potential scoring differential of nearly close to 70 points.

Australia managed to add 23 points over the last quarter while Ireland's limitations in finishing as well as in 'clean' catching were again exposed.

When it was all over, the unacceptable level of physicality left something of a sour taste. Yet, you had to admire the way the Australians played over the two games and wonder how Ireland can bridge the gap in twelve months time.

Scorers for Australia: R. O'Keeffe 14, M. Lappin and M. Lovett 9 each, S. Grant and N. Davis 6 each, A. Buchanan and A. Davey 4 each, D. Giansiracusa and T. Makepeace 3 each, L. Gilbee, N. Eagleton, A. McLeod, J. Waite and D. Milburn 1 each.

Ireland: S. Cavanagh and R. Munnelly 7 each, R. Clarke and C. McManus 6 each, D. Dolan 4, P. Joyce and C. McDonald 3 each, G. Canty, C. Cooper, B. Coulter, M. Forde, A. Lynch and S. O'Neill 1 each.

AUSTRALIA: D. Fletcher, L. Gilbee, D. Milburn, D. Morris; D. Giansiracusa, C. Newman, B. Deledio; L. Hodge, A. McLeod; B. Harvey, N. Eagleton, M. Lappin; A. Davey, C. Johnson (capt.), N. Davis.

Inter-change: R. O'Keeffe, S. Grant, B. Moloney, T. Croad, J. Waite, A. Lovett, T. Makepeace.

IRELAND: M. McVeigh (Down); S. Og O hAilpin (Cork), T. Kelly (Laois), R. McMenamin (Tyrone); P. Jordan (Tyrone), B. Cullen (Dublin), A. Lynch (Cork); S. Cavanagh (Tyrone), G. Canty (Cork); R. Munnelly (Laois), B. Coulter (Down), B. Dooher (Tyrone); P. Joyce (Galway, capt.), R. Clarke (Armagh), D. Dolan (Westmeath).

Inter-change: C. Cooper (Kerry), R. Clarke (Armagh), D. Heaney (Mayo), S.M. Lockhart (Derry), T. Ó Sé (Kerry) C. McDonald (Mayo), C. McManus (Offaly), S. O'Neill (Tyrone).

Referees: Matthew James (Australia) and Michael Collins (Ireland).

*Attendance: 45,428.

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