The series needs physicality, speed and competitiveness to excite the punters, not the artificial frenetic ‘upyaboya’ schtick of the ubiquitous Hector O hEochagáin, and they got that in the end.
Ireland manager Anthony Tohill was a picture of animation in that final quarter, exhorting his players to attack in numbers so that the man in possession had support. He was almost as tired as they were at the end and was certainly as disappointed.
“The lads gave absolutely everything,” he said afterwards. “They were probably coming from too far back and even with that we got three up and walked away with nothing. I thought we were good enough to win the game but, to be fair to the players, they just exhausted themselves in the latter stages of the game. We came up just short. It’s not as hard to take when you give that much effort but it is very disappointing. We deserved something and we walk away with nothing.”
There was certainly a feeling that the Irish had emptied themselves in a manner that wasn’t the case the previous weekend.
For the opening two quarters, the crowd could only admire what Tohill called the “fantastic football” of the Australians. Just as in Limerick, their ability to find space and accuracy of kick-passing was magnificent and Adam Goodes was the go-to man.
The Australian captain caused Finian Hanley and Kevin Reilly serious discomfort but did have less of an influence when Kieran McKeever took up the challenge.
The game really opened up in the third period, Brendan Murphy setting the tone with a brilliant over kicked on the run. Steven McDonnell was picking up breaks around midfield and it was evident that Ireland could compete if they stood man-for-man and did not allow the Australians to get into a lot of space.
“I think they only won two of their seven (kickouts) in the first half and maybe four from 15 all night,” Tohill said. “They did win a few out in front but when they had to kick it out, I think we won most of those. We did okay on their kickouts; on our own we could have done a bit better.”
Overs from Todd Banfield, Goodes and Eddie Betts stretched the Australian advantage to 17 when James Kavanagh struck for a goal from close range in the 50th minute – after Bernard Brogan had occupied Dustin Fletcher – and the score breathed fire into Ireland’s hopes.
They only won that quarter 21-20 (though they were still 48-38 in arrears), but they were now doing many things right at least. The final quarter was a superior effort once again, until fatigue took its toll.
With Graham Canty an inspirational driving force, Ireland kicked the first eight scores, but critically, only one of the first six was an over, supplied by Seán Cavanagh.
Brogan blazed a behind when presented with a goal opportunity by Clarke but when Michael Murphy sent over two three-pointers - the second a wonderful, soaring kick from the 45m line towards the Hogan Stand side - the attendance of 61,842 erupted. With Ireland leading 52-48, they were only an over off tying the series.
Australia didn’t score until fourminutes from time and though it was only a behind from Dane Swan, it stemmed the Irish momentum.
Green slotted two further overs to remove any doubt.
“They were out on their feet,” Tohill concluded. “They just gave everything they had and I couldn’t find fault in any of them. They were just fantastic.”
IRELAND: S. Cluxton, C. McKeever, F. Hanley, B. Donaghy, K. McKernan 0-1-2 (5), G. Canty, K. Reilly, T. Walsh 0-0-3 (3), C. Begley 0-1-1 (4), L. Glynn, S. McDonnell 0-1-2 (5), T. Kennelly 0-1-0 (3), M. Clarke, S. Cavanagh 0-1-2 (5), B. Brogan 0-1-2 (5).
Interchange: D. Goulding, P. Keenan, S. McDermott, B. Murphy 0-1-1 (4), M. Murphy 0-2-0 (6), M. Shields, J. Kavanagh 1-0-0 (6), B. Coulter 0-2-0 (6).AUSTRALIA: D. Fletcher, J. Frawley 0-0-1 (1), J. Goldsack, G. Ibbitson, P. Duffield, L. Picken, B. Gibbs, D. Cross, D. Swan 0-3-1 (10), T. Varcoe, B. Green 0-4-4 (16), P. Dangerfield 0-0-1 (1), L. Montagna 0-1-1 (4), A. Goodes 0-2-1 (7), T. Banfield 0-2-2 (8).
Interchange: J. McVeigh 0-1-1(4), M. Boyd, K. Simpson, J. Riewoldt, S. Gilbert, K. Jack 0-0-1 (1), E. Betts 0-1-0 (3), D. Wojcinski.
Referees: P. McEnaney (Ireland), B. Rosebury (Australia).