Late comeback not enough for Ireland

Ireland 52 (1-11-13) Australia 55 (0-14-13) (Australia win series 102-92)

Ireland 52 (1-11-13) Australia 55 (0-14-13) (Australia win series 102-92)

Ireland’s courageous bid to rescue the 2010 International Rules series fell short at Croke Park today, where the Australians survived a final-quarter bombardment to close out the game, winning by three points and by an aggregate of 10.

At one stage, Anthony Tohill’s men trailed by 17 points, and by 24 overall, but they stormed back to go ahead on the night, but were unable to find the killer punch.

It was James Kavanagh’s 50th-minute goal that sparked the backlash, and in the final quarter, Ireland hit 12 points without replay, before succumbing to a late Aussie rally.

Ireland started with a promising flourish, with Bernard Brogan and Steven McDonnell looking sharp up front.

Brogan hit an over to get the big crowd behind Anthony Tohill’s side, but their optimism was soon to be knocked back as the Australians began to dominate.

They had three-pointers from Brad Green, Leigh Montagna, Adam Goodes and Dane Swan.

Ireland were struggling to get any decent possession up to the front men, but did narrow the gap with an over from skipper McDonnell.

They trailed by 16-9 at the end of the opening quarter, but the introduction of Benny Coulter, who missed the first Test through injury, helped the Irish carry an increasing threat up front.

They almost got in for a goal when Coulter’s pass sent Daniel Goulding in, but goalkeeper Dustin Fletcher was quickly off his line to clear the danger.

Australia won an abundance of possession around the middle of the field through Liam Picken and Leigh Montagna, and stretched their lead through Dane Swan and Jarrad McVeigh.

Coulter and Kevin McKernan fired over three-pointers to keep the home nation in the hunt, but by the halfway stage, Australia had extended their lead to 11 points.

Ireland made a bright start to the second half, with scores from Aussie Rules exports Tadhg Kennelly and Colm Begley, but Australia responded with three-pointer from Todd Banfield (2) and Eddie Betts to go 17 points clear.

But fresh hope swept through the stands at Croke Park when Kildare’s James Kavanagh slid home a 50th-minute goal.

Coulter banged through another over, but still, the momentum lay very much with the tourists, who led 48-38 going into the final quarter.

With Colm Begley of Laois, later voted Ireland's player of the series, driving his colleagues on, Ireland performed with passion and pride in the final quarter.

They hit 12 points without reply, including two wonderful marks and three-pointers from Michael Murphy, to go 52-48 ahead.

But Australia finished the game in the most professional way possible, with Swan and Green sealing the series with late overs.

Ireland: S Cluxton, C McKeever, F Hanley, B Donaghy, K McKernan (0-1-2), G Canty, K Reilly, T Walsh (0-0-3), C Begley (0-1-1), L Glynn, S McDonnell (0-1-2), T Kennelly (0-1-0), M Clarke, S Cavanagh (0-1-2), B Brogan (0-1-2).

Interchange: D Goulding, P Keenan, S McDermott, B Murphy (0-1-1), M Murphy (0-2-0), M Shields, J Kavanagh (1-0-0), B Coulter (0-2-0).

Australia: D Fletcher, J Frawley, J Goldsack, G Ibbitson, P Duffield, L Picken, B Gibbs, D Cross, D Swan (0-3-1), T Varcoe, B Green (0-3-4), P Dangerfield (0-0-1), L Montagna (0-1-1), A Goodes (0-2-1), T Banfield (0-2-2).

Interchange: J McVeigh, M Boyd, K Simpson, J Riewoldt, S Gilbert, K Jack (0-1-2), E Betts (0-1-1), D Wojcinski.

Referees: P McEnaney (Ireland), B Rosebury (Australia).

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