Joe Kernan wasn’t conflating Ireland’s failure to win with what he perceived was the failure of the referees to do their jobs in Perth on Saturday. Hands up, he knew his team didn’t do enough to claim the Series, although a Test win was well within their grasp.
AUSTRALIA 53 (0-15-8) IRELAND 50 (2-10-8)
Australia win series (2-0) by 13 points
There were grumblings here that the Armagh manager was looking to deflect from the defeat or at least hold someone other than he and his team responsible for the loss, when it couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Ireland, he accepted, were the authors of their downfall but then he pondered on what might have happened had Matt Stevic, in particular, and Maurice Deegan penalised fouls on Michael Murphy.
“I thought the refereeing was diabolical,” lashed the Crossmaglen man.
“Michael Murphy was tortured all day. If you look at last week we had handy frees given against our full-back line for holding men’s hands. Murphy was being dragged all through and never got a free. Aidan O’Shea got a forearm smash (from Nathan Fyfe) right in front of the dug-out. It should have been a straight red but it wasn’t even ticked.
“Having said that, the losing of the game was down to ourselves. In fairness to the Australians, they played very well.
“We got two early goals and put them on the back foot. Even in the third quarter when we didn’t play all that well we hung on in there. The game was there for the taking in the last quarter. But we just didn’t do enough.”
Those goals of Gary Brennan and Chris Barrett one minute after the other rocked Australia and it was only in the third quarter that they regained their composure.
But on the points which Kernan raised about the officiating, while he had a strong argument regarding Murphy, the Fyfe foul on Aidan O’Shea was not as serious as it appeared on first viewing. Deegan also made a couple of borderline calls in Ireland’s favour in the last couple of quarters.
That Fyfe incident, along with Joel Selwood’s high and late tackle on Barrett, were analysed by independent referee Ian Curlewis of South Africa.
While he recommended Selwood be black carded (removed and replaced for the rest of the game) for his infringement, it was felt Fyfe’s action did not merit anything more than a free against him.
There was speculation Geelong Cats captain Selwood could face a fine or ban for the foul on Barrett but the refereeing group afterwards chose not to take any further action.
A row broke out between several members of the teams after the half-time hooter at which stage Ireland led 30 points to 17, which meant they were three points to the good in the series.
It was a just advantage, given how the defence had worked so well in dealing with long balls into the Australian full-forward line, and the clever play to engineer those two goals and then four overs in the second period, courtesy of that deadly duo of Conor McManus and Murphy.
Brendon Goddard was sharp to stop Darren Hughes for an early second quarter goal too, as he was in denying Shane Walsh another in the third quarter. Had either of those shots hit the net, Ireland would likely have been on their way to a famous series-clinching test win.
It wasn’t because of the goalkeeper that they didn’t get the ball in the net, “it was what happened up the field, so he’s a strong character and there was no doubt in our mind that he was the right man to stay in goal,” said Australian coach Chris Scott.
“He had a really solid impact later in the game and those saves were high-pressure situations. But that’s why we rate the best players. You can’t be one of the best players without being able to stand up in big moments.”
Although Ireland went 16 points up through Walsh just after half-time, Australia claimed the third quarter 17 points to 11 and while Kernan’s men still held a good lead of seven points going into the final quarter the vast inexperience of the Ireland group showed. Brendan Harrison and Niall Sludden made mistakes. Niall Morgan, who pulled off a great save to prevent Chad Wingard from scoring a goal midway through the fourth quarter, was later guilty of a mishap, which allowed Dayne Zorko in for the test-winning over.
Kernan wasn’t going to pick out any one moment that hurt Ireland. “We were being caught on the ball and we shouldn’t. We should have been moving it and Australia punished us big time on that. In the third quarter, we lost the ball nine times, six times in our own half-back line which you can’t afford to do against a team as good as Australia. You need to move it quicker against boys like that – when they see an opening, they come at you. “How many overs could we have got if we didn’t lose the ball between the two 50s? If we got two or three more overs you’re thinking we can win the series, never mind the match.”
Kernan accepted there will be regrets for him and his players, although to make this as competitive as they did, given their inexperience, and the virus that took over the camp last week, it was an achievement in itself.
Scorers for Australia:
Eddie Betts (0-2-3), Dayne Zorko (0-3-0) 9 each; Chad Wingard (0-2-0), Rory Sloane (0-2-0) 6 each; Luke Shuey (0-1-2) 5; Zach Merrett (0-1-1), Ben Brown (0-1-1) 4 each; Rory Laird (0-1-0), Nathan Fyfe (0-1-0), Shaun Burgoyne 3 each; Jack Gunston (0-0-1) 1.
Scorers for Ireland:
Conor McManus (0-5-1) 16; Gary Brennan (1-0-1) 7; Chris Barrett (1-0-0), Michael Murphy (0-2-0) 6 each; Shane Walsh (0-1-3) 6; Ciarán Sheehan (0-1-0), Niall Murphy (0-1-0) 3 each; Darren Hughes (0-0-1), Paul Murphy (0-0-1), Niall Murphy (0-0-1) 1 each.
Brendan Goddard (Essendon); Shaun Burgoyne (captain, Hawthorn), Robbie Tarrant (North Melbourne); Kade Simpson (Carlton); Rory Laird (Adelaide Crows), Luke Shuey (West Coast Eagles); Dayne Zorko (Brisbane Lions), Shaun Higgins (North Melbourne); Patrick Dangerfield (Geelong Cats), Rory Sloane (Adelaide Crows), Eddie Betts (Adelaide Crows), Nathan Fyfe (Fremantle), Chad Wingard (Port Adelaide), Ben Brown (North Melbourne), Neville Jetta (Melbourne).
Travis Boak (Port Adelaide), Jack Gunston (Hawthorn), Zac Merrett (Essendon), Joel Selwood (Geelong Cats).
Joel Selwood (second quarter, 17th minute).
Niall Morgan (Edendork, Tyrone); Brendan Harrison (Aghamore, Mayo), Eoin Cadogan (Douglas, Cork), Seán Powter (Douglas, Cork); Ciarán Sheehan (Éire Óg, Cork), Zach Tuohy (Portlaoise/Geelong Cats, Laois), Chris Barrett (Belmullet, Mayo); Kevin Feely (Athy, Kildare), Aidan O’Shea (captain, Breaffy); Shane Walsh (Kilkerrin-Clonberne, Galway), Darren Hughes (Scotstown, Monaghan), Niall Sludden (Dromore, Tyrone); Paul Geaney (Dingle, Kerry), Michael Murphy (Glenswilly, Donegal), Conor McManus (Clontibret, Monaghan).
Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers, Kerry), Killian Clarke (Shercock, Cavan), Paul Murphy (Rathmore, Kerry), Gary Brennan (Clondegad, Clare), Niall Sludden (Madden Rapparees, Armagh), Enda Smith (Boyle, Roscommon), Niall Murphy (Coolera-Strandhill, Sligo), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen, Tipperary).
Maurice Deegan (Laois), Matt Stevic (Victoria).
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