Ireland not ready for ‘onslaught’

Ireland's David Moran battles for the ball with VFL's Ben Smithwich and James Magner. Picture: Cathal Noonan

INTERNATIONAL RULES WARM-UP:
VFL Selection 27 (1-5-6) Ireland 100 (9-11-13)
Paul Earley admits Ireland are not yet fully prepared for the anticipated onslaught of Australia — despite coasting to a 73-point victory in a warm-up game in Melbourne yesterday.

Colm O’Neill shone with four goals at the Sandringham Football Ground just south of the city. They struck nine in total in a game that became more of an exhibition than a challenge after the first quarter when they led by 25 points. O’Neill and Michael Murphy looked extremely dangerous in the inside line but Earley didn’t see enough to be convinced that his side are yet right to meet the fancied Australians.

“I think we’ve got a little bit of work to do this week. That’s part of the purpose of this game, to identify things that we need to work on and so we’ll review it.

“We’ll get the video and pick out the things that we need to work on. Right now, are we ready? No, but hopefully in four or five days we will be.”

Monaghan’s Darren Hughes picked up a slight quad muscle but is expected to be fit for Patersons Stadium on Saturday.

As embarrassingly easy as it was for Ireland, Earley took plenty from the game.

“It was a worthwhile run for us. We needed the practice game just to prepare for next week. We have eight guys who have never played this game before. I think it was very important for them in particular to experience that.

“The pitch was a bit tighter, a bit shorter. For obvious reasons, it’s an oval, they couldn’t make it any bigger so there was less space. It was more congested and that was good because there was a lot of physical contact and the guys got used to that. I was happy with it. We didn’t come out with any bad injuries.”

O’Neill found the net three times in the first quarter and added another three minutes after half-time. There were also goals for captain Michael Murphy (two), Seán Cavanagh, Pearse Hanley and Aidan O’Shea.

Earley knows the same amount of opportunities won’t present themselves in Perth for the Test. “At times we probably should have taken the over, maybe it got a little bit easy at times and we tried to manufacture goals when we should have been just popping it over. I would have preferred 4-15, 4-16, something like that rather than nine goals. We won’t get nine goals next week or nine chances. We’ve just got to be clinical when we get the opportunities and make good decisions, when to just take the mark and stop and take the three-pointer.”

Ireland were up 31-6 after the first quarter, O’Neill and Murphy running riot in the full-forward line with Ross Munnelly impressing as a link player with them. Hanley bagged his goal in the fifth minute of the second quarter to push the visitors into a 30-point lead while Roscommon’s Cathal Cregg added two excellent overs to add to his opening three-pointer in the opening 18 minute period.

The VFL outfit managed just two points in the second quarter and Ireland’s advantage was 51 at the break, 59-8, after O’Shea, having moved into full-forward, claimed a mark but elected to run it and beat the goalkeeper.

Another 30 points were posted by Ireland in the third quarter. The first three of their scores were goals — Cavanagh, O’Neill and then Murphy punishing a defence that was all at sea.

Ahead 89-14 at the end of the quarter, the question was whether they would break the 100-point mark. They eventually did in the last minute of action in the form of an O’Neill behind although it was the VFL men who outscored them at that stage largely thanks to an Adam Cockie goal.

“That’s something we have to work on,” said Earley of his side’s performance in the closing stages. “We probably took our foot off the pedal in the third quarter. It was easy at times in the second quarter and while we tried to keep the intensity up, we were rotating quite a bit as well and once it dropped in the third quarter we found it very difficult to lift it again. It is something we have to work on because the Australians will play to the end, there’s no doubt about that.”

Niall Morgan started in goal while Paddy O’Rourke, who had suffered from a bug last week, saw action in the second half. Ireland will remain in Melbourne until tomorrow morning when they leave for Perth.

Scorers for Ireland: C O’Neill (4-1-3) 30; M Murphy (2-1-4) 19; A O’Shea (1-3-1) 16; C Cregg (0-3-1) 10; S Cavanagh (1-1-0) 9; P Hanley (1-0-0) 6; R Munnelly (0-1-2) 5; C Boyle (0-1-0) 3; D Hughes (0-0-1) 1; D Moran (0-0-1) 1.

Scorers for VFL: A Cockie (1-1-0) 9; L Featherstone (0-1-1) 4; S Clouston (0-1-1) 4; J Bolton (0-1-0) 3; T Pinwill (0-1-0) 3; N Rippon (0-0-1) 1, T O’Sullivan (0-0-1) 1, J Owen (0-0-1) 1, B Davies (0-0-1) 1.

IRELAND: 18. N Morgan (Tyrone); 11. C McDonald (Tipperary), 12. N McGee (Donegal), 2. C Boyle (Mayo); 9. L Keegan (Mayo), 10. J McCarthy (Dublin), 14. K McKernan (Down); 25. A Walsh (Cork), 3. S Cavanagh (Tyrone); 4. C Cregg (Roscommon), 1. C Begley (Laois), 7. P Hanley (Mayo, Brisbane Lions); 21. C O’Neill (Cork), 20. M Murphy (Donegal), 19. R Munnelly (Laois).

Interchanges: 5. M Donnelly (Tyrone), 6. F Hanley (Galway), 8. D Hughes (Monaghan), 15. K McLoughlin (Mayo), 17. D Moran (Kerry), 22. P O’Neill (Kildare), 23. P O’Rourke (Meath), 24. A O’Shea (Mayo).

VFL SELECTION (from): S Sherlock, B Cavarra, A Saad, T O’Sullivan, C Lockwood, N Rippon, T Paule, B Smithwick, T Gribble, A Marcon, B Mahon, L Tynan, J Bolton, J Geary, B Jolley, A Cockie, M Cook, N Newman, S Clouston, L Featherstone, J Magner, B Davies, J Owen, T Pinwill, E Panozza.


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