Late Ireland fightback means all still to play for

INTERNATIONAL RULES: Ireland 40 (1-8-10) Australia 47 (0-14-5)

INTERNATIONAL RULES: Ireland 40 (1-8-10) Australia 47 (0-14-5)

Ireland came good in the closing stages to give themselves a fighting chance of victory in the 2010 International Rules series.

They trailed by 18 points to a rampant Australian side at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick, but a superb Bernard Brogan goal sparked a late rally and they go into the decisive Test at Croke Park next Saturday trailing by seven points.

The tourists, led by inspirational skipper Adam Goodes, bossed a strangely tame contest for long stages, and led from the eighth minute right to the final hooter.

There was no sign of the sort of acrimony which has marred previous International Rules series. Indeed, the Australians played sweet football and excelled in their passing, handling and kicking of the long ball.

Goode scored four overs, while Ireland struggled to convert many straightforward chances, and Brogan emerged as their top points scorer even though he scored just twice.

Ireland made a busy start with Kevin in Reilly and Sean Cavanagh scoring singles, and Footballer of the Year Bernard Brogan hitting a three-pointer.

After a slow start, Australia slipped into their stride, and displayed confident handling and clever support play and movement off the ball.

Overs from Adam Goodes, James Frawley and Daniel Cross erased Ireland’s early advantage, and a flowing move set up what looked like a certain goal for Todd Bradfield, but he blazed over the bar.

But Ireland recovered, and finished the opening quarter strongly, with skipper Steven McDonnell hitting four points, including a superb over from wide on the left, to narrow the gap to three.

Australia ahead by 12 points to nine at the break, but Ireland displayed more urgency in the early stages of the second quarter.

However, they could mange just one three-pointer, from Daniel Goulding, and they were denied by the handling of veteran goalkeeper Dustin Fletcher, who displayed confidence in coming off his line to claim high balls.

With Jarrad McVeigh showing remarkable energy, the Australians got back on top, and a superb mark and over from inspirational skipper Goodes got them going again.

Eddie Betts and Banfield also steered over three-pointers, and at the halfway stage, the tourists led by 21-16.

They continued to press, and but for some excellent defending from Graham Canty and Kevin Reilly, would have stretched the advantage.

The third quarter was 10 minutes old before Matthew Boyd, with his side’s first behind, extended Australia’s lead.

The movement of the Irish forwards was lacking in ideas and positivity, but former Kerry stars Kennelly and Tommy Walsh ignited an old Kingdom spark to combine for a superb three-pointer from the latter.

But once again, the Aussies stamped their authority on the contest, and pushed Ireland deep into their own half with well placed passes and confident marks.

Leighton Montagna hammered over a couple of superb long range overs, and Eddie Betts also grabbed a three-pointer for a 13 points cushion.

Just before the end of the penultimate spell, Leighton Glynn garnered three points off a much-needed mark, and going into the final 20 minute segment, Ireland trailed by 32-22.

Goodes continued to inspire, and clipped the crossbar with a fisted effort as his side moved into a commanding 47-29 lead.

But Ireland finally found their fighting spirit in the final seven minutes, and Brogan raced through the middle to rocket home a wonderful goal, the only six-pointer of the game.

The scored the game’s last 11 points, and gave themselves plenty to play for in next Saturday’s second Test at Croke Park.

Ireland: S Cluxton (0-0-1, o-p), C McKeever, F Hanley, B Donaghy, S McDermott, G Canty, K Reilly (0-0-1), C Begley, T Kennelly (0-0-1), L Glynn (0-1-0), S McDonnell (0-2-2), S Cavanagh (0-1-4), B Brogan (1-1-0), T Walsh (0-1-1), M Clarke (0-0-1).

Interchange: D Goulding (0-1-0), J Kavanagh, P Keenan, K McKernan (0-1-0), B Murphy, M Murphy, E Bolton.

Australia: D Fletcher, P Duffield, J Frawley (0-1-0), K Simpson (0-0-1), B Gibbs (0-1-0), G Ibbotson, T Goldsack, M Boyd (0-0-1), D Swan, L Picken, A Goodes (0-4-0), J McVeigh, E Betts (0-2-0), J Riewoldt, B Green.

Interchange: D Cross (0-2-0), L Montagna (0-2-0), S Gilbert, K Jack, T Banfield (0-2-0), P Dangerfield.

Referees: D Coldrick (Ireland), B Rosebury (Australia).

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