Australia 36 (1-8-6) Ireland 80 (4-17-5)
The most embarrassingly one-sided Test in International Rules history saw Anthony Tohill’s Ireland hammer an ill-prepared Australian team by 44 points.
This Melbourne mauling will only add to the speculation that the hybrid game is past its sell by date, with Rodney Eade’s home side shockingly poor in all departments.
The Australians could not even use their physical advantage to quell the strong-running visitors who were clinical, clever and hard working throughout the 72 minutes.
With former AFL Premiership winner Tadhg Kennelly in superb form, Ireland opened up a 22-4 first quarter lead and it looked ominous for the Australians.
Goals from Michael Murphy and Eamonn Callaghan stretched the gap to 44-20 by half-time, and the disappointingly small Etihad Stadium crowd (22,921) was fast losing interest.
Australian captain Brad Green capitalised on a rare Stephen Cluxton error to score his side’s only goal, but two more six-pointers from Leighton Glynn and Steven McDonnell completed the Irish onslaught.
Armagh sharpshooter McDonnell finished as the game’s two scorer with 18 points, comprised of a goal and four overs, while the only setback for Tohill was the sight of Emmet Bolton being stretchered off following a heavy challenge in the third quarter.
The 44-point winning margin passed the previous best from Australia in 2005 (36 points) and also marked the first time Ireland have amassed 80 points in a Test match since the 1984 Series.
The runaway victory has effectively sewn up the Series for Ireland and means they will be travelling home with the Cormac McAnallen Cup unless Eade’s charges miraculously recover at Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium next Friday.
Key to Ireland’s dominance was the performance of their players with Aussie Rules experience.
Kennelly and Tommy Walsh were prominent right from the start, while Pearce Hanley, Zach Tuohy and Colm Begley all made significant contributions as the game wore on.
Cluxton and Ciarán McKeever marshalled a defence that gave very little away and Ireland’s superior ball-handling and footballing skills were evident early on.
Kennelly and McDonnell, two International Rules veterans, teed up Tommy Walsh for the opening over. Ireland doubled their lead to 6-0 thanks to Glynn’s neatly-taken score from the right.
Eade made a late change when he slotted Matthew Suckling in at goalkeeper rather than Zac Smith, who had taken the position in training.
But the move backfired as Suckling struggled to find his team-mates with kick-outs, and weak early shots from Ben McGlynn and Smith suggested that the Australians needed more practice time with the round ball.
A lovely piece of improvisation from Kennelly near the end-line led to an over from Donegal captain Michael Murphy, before Mark Nicoski got the hosts off the mark with a behind.
Distributing accurately and at pace, Ireland kicked well and used the hand pass to good effect. Walsh marked and his quick delivery sent Kennelly surging down the right wing for a curled effort which split the posts for three points.
Hanley added a behind and then a pinpoint pass from Callaghan put Murphy breaking clear into acres of space and he needed no second invitation, drilling a low shot into the bottom left corner of the net.
Stephen Milne responded with Australia’s first over, but a sublime three-pointer from McDonnell just inches in from the right sideline ended the first quarter’s scoring.
Ireland maintained a high work-rate and continued to pick off their scores in the second quarter, a succession of which from Kevin McKernan, Tuohy, Kieran Donaghy and Bolton pushed the lead out to 29-4.
A behind from Richard Douglas drew ironic cheers from the crowd and just moments later, Suckling was caught off his line, failed to gather possession and Callaghan effortlessly clipped the loose ball into an empty net.
McDonnell followed up with two overs and he also provided the assist for a three-pointer from Tommy Walsh, but some loose play from the Irish allowed Australia gain some momentum before the interval.
Robin Nahas and Douglas kicked overs and a slick turn and shot from Mitch Robinson and then Cluxton, who had hardly put a foot wrong, was caught out for a soft Australian goal.
The Dublin goalkeeper was closed down on one of his sorties away from goal and his loose pass gave Green an opportunity he could not miss.
But the influential McDonnell made sure Ireland answered back on the cusp of half-time, kicking another over after a foul on the busy Hanley.
44-20 adrift, Australia needed a big third quarter but the push never came and Tohill’s men, who comfortably outplayed and out-tackled the home side, were never in trouble.
In fact, a number of the Australian scores were as a result of Ireland being caught in possession rather than Eade’s side being able to open up the defence.
The intensity dropped given the sizeable difference on the scoreboard. Murphy and Walsh added six more points to Ireland’s tally, Walsh’s over the product of some deft passing from Kennelly and McDonnell.
Australia stayed competitive with behinds from Robinson and Green (2), before the strongly-built Robinson rolled over Bolton as the pair competed for possession in the Irish defence.
There was no malice in the challenge but the Kildare ace had to be taken off. Tempers briefly flared in midfield as the Australians clashed with Kevin Reilly and Brendan Murphy.
When play resumed, Ireland were very much back in the ascendancy. Donaghy claimed a very good mark and an over, Glynn did likewise and McKernan’s intelligent running off the ball was rewarded with his second three-pointer.
A mistake from McKeever allowed Robbie Gray kick a final over which reduced the arrears to 59-26 by the hooter.
The deficit was down to 30 points when Milne broke forward and turned onto his right for a well-taken over. In previous years Australia’s professional status had seen them finish strongly in the fourth quarter, but Ireland were in no mood to bow to the hosts.
Murphy’s direct ball through the middle picked out an unmarked Glynn and the Wicklow star’s rising shot gave Suckling no chance.
The men in green kicked on with a Donaghy over and the Kerry target man then had a goal ruled out for an earlier infringement.
But that fourth and final goal came when the Australian defence was split open again and McDonnell beat the ‘keeper with a crisp shot from an acute angle.
McDonnell soon launched over a free to take his haul to 18 points and although Trent McKenzie and Angus Monfries got on the scoresheet late on, an accomplished final mark and over from Brendan Murphy was a satisfying finish for the dominant Irish.
Scorers - Australia 36 (1-8-6): Brad Green 11 (1-1-2), Stephen Milne 6 (0-2-0), Richard Douglas 4 (0-1-1), Mitch Robinson 4 (0-1-1), Robin Nahas 3 (0-1-0), Robbie Gray 3 (0-1-0), Angus Monfries 3 (0-1-0), Mark Nicoski 1 (0-0-1), Trent McKenzie 1 (0-0-1)
Ireland 80 (4-17-5): Steven McDonnell 18 (1-4-0), Michael Murphy 12 (1-2-0), Leighton Glynn 12 (1-2-0), Tommy Walsh 9 (0-3-0), Kieran Donaghy 7 (0-2-1), Kevin McKernan 7 (0-2-1), Eamonn Callaghan 6 (1-0-0), Tadhg Kennelly 3 (0-1-0), Brendan Murphy 3 (0-1-0), Pearse Hanley 1 (0-0-1), Zach Tuohy 1 (0-0-1), Emmet Bolton 1 (0-0-1)
AUSTRALIA: Matthew Suckling (Hawthorn), Richard Douglas (Adelaide Crows), James Frawley (Melbourne), Robbie Gray (Port Adelaide), Brad Green (Melbourne), Shaun Grigg (Richmond), James Kelly (Geelong Cats), Jake King (Richmond), Ben McGlynn (Sydney Swans), Trent McKenzie (Gold Coast Suns), Stephen Milne (St Kilda), Angus Monfries (Essendon), Robin Nahas (Richmond), Mark Nicoski (West Coast), Mitch Robinson (Carlton), Liam Shiels (Hawthorn), Zac Smith (Gold Coast Suns), Andrew Swallow (North Melbourne), Jack Trengove (Melbourne), Bernie Vince (Adelaide Crows), Callan Ward (GWS Giants), David Wojcinski (Geelong Cats), Easton Wood (Western Bulldogs).
IRELAND: Stephen Cluxton (Dublin), Leighton Glynn (Wicklow), Brendan Murphy (Carlow), Colm Begley (Laois), Kevin Reilly (Meath), Neil McGee (Donegal), Michael Murphy (Donegal), Steven McDonnell (Armagh), Ciarán McKeever (Armagh), Kevin McKernan (Down), Joe McMahon (Tyrone), Darren Hughes (Monaghan), Finian Hanley (Galway), Eoin Cadogan (Cork), Aidan Walsh (Cork), Paddy Kelly (Cork), Eamonn Callaghan (Kildare), Kieran Donaghy (Kerry), Tommy Walsh (Kerry/St Kilda), Zach Touhy (Laois/Carlton), Tadhg Kennelly (Kerry/Sydney Swans), Pearce Hanley (Mayo/Brisbane Lions), Emmet Bolton (Kildare).
Umpires: Ray Chamberlain (Australia), David Coldrick (Ireland).