Goal-shy Ir­ish have gap to bridge as Aus­tralia show qual­ity

Aus­tralia seal vic­tory with dom­i­nant dis­play in third quar­ter The hosts have 10 points to spare ahead of next week’s sec­ond Test

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports - Seán Mo­ran

That Rus­sian roulette feel­ing you get be­fore first Tests with no real clues as to which bar­rel is go­ing to be loaded gave way to a stark re­al­i­sa­tion that it wasn’t go­ing to be Ire­land’s day.

The ill­ness that had dis­rupted prepa­ra­tions took a toll with both Enda Smith and Niall Mur­phy ruled out be­fore the start whereas Aus­tralia also lost a listed player, Joel Sel­wood. By the end, Ire­land had also lost Mayo’s Pearce Han­ley, one of their two AFL play­ers, to a sus­pected bro­ken bone in his hand.

As or­dained by cliché the third quar­ter was when the dam­age was done, as Aus­tralia went from the slen­der­est of half-time leads, 28-27 to a com­mand­ing 15-point ad­van­tage by the three-quar­ters mark.

Al­though Ire­land edged the fi­nal quar­ter Aus­tralia were over­all by far the stronger team in yes­ter­day’s first con­test in this year’s In­ter­na­tional Rules se­ries in Ade­laide.

Ire­land never hit top gear and al­though there were high-scor­ing con­tri­bu­tions from es­tab­lished for­wards Michael Mur­phy and Conor McManus there was also a litany of wasted chances in a dis­ap­point­ing dis­play by the vis­i­tors.

By con­trast the Aus­tralians picked their way through dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods in the match – es­pe­cially the sec­ond quar­ter – stead­ied and showed more con­sis­tency in all facets of the game.

Even the newly-un­veiled goal­keeper Bren­don God­dard had an ex­cel­lent day be­tween the posts, sav­ing a cou­ple of goal chances and dou­bling up ef­fec­tively as a sweeper when his some­times short-crewed de­fence left gaps.

Great dis­play

Fre­man­tle’s Nat Fyfe gave a great dis­play of scor­ing, hit­ting a gem of a goal in the 44th minute, curl­ing it be­yond Niall Mor­gan af­ter good build-up by the con­stantly threat­en­ing Ed­die Betts and team cap­tain Shaun Bur­goyne.

To that six-pointer he added a few overs and a cou­ple of spec­tac­u­lar marks to un­der­line the loss he was three years ago when forced to with­draw be­cause of in­jury.

Ire­land were ten­ta­tive, stand­ing off their op­po­nents who man­aged to make in­roads quite eas­ily.

It could have been more but the wood­work came to Ire­land’s res­cue on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions.

Hardly sur­pris­ingly given the game’s in­ter­mit­tent na­ture, both teams took a while to find their feet.

Ire­land took the early ini­tia­tive with McManus show­ing again why he’s such a threat in these games with two well-taken overs but as the match de­vel­oped it was clear that the AFL team also had im­pres­sive per­form­ers.

Chad Win­gard took an as­ton­ish­ing one-handed mark, which drew gasps from the crowd of 25,502 - even though it wasn’t con­verted.

The re­cent pat­tern of a high Aus­tralia de­fence was main­tained but al­though goal chances were con­ceded Ire­land’s con­ver­sion rate was poor and they ended up be­ing out scored in the six-pointer cat­e­gory.

McManus will be dis­ap­pointed he didn’t make more of a cou­ple of chances when he tried to chip the goal­keeper and an ear­lier in­ci­dent when God­dard just tack­led him when one-on-one.

In­tri­cate move

Ire­land got off to the best pos­si­ble start in the sec­ond quar­ter. An in­tri­cate move set up by a clever ball from Shane Walsh was con­tin­ued by Paul Geaney and Pearse Han­ley be­fore Michael Mur­phy came in on the end to crash in the first goal of the se­ries.

On a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions the vis­i­tors led by 10 but the lead seemed to have an at­ro­phy­ing ef­fect on Ire­land and grad­u­ally the Aus­tralians worked their way back into it and ac­tu­ally led by a point at half-time.

Elu­sive

Goals re­mained elu­sive and Paul Geaney was blocked by God­dard in the 49th minute, as the match moved be­yond them af­ter Fyfe’s goal.

There was a fourth-quar­ter flour­ish to get the deficit down to seven but any hopes that the mar­gin could be kept man­age­able for Perth next Satur­day per­ished when Luke Shuey man­aged to flick a loose ball past Mor­gan in the 64th minute af­ter the Ir­ish de­fence had been caught out by the bounce.

At least Joe Ker­nan’s side will have a sec­ond Test in six days’ time in Perth but it will re­quire a barely cred­i­ble turn­around in for­tunes to rein in the home team’s 10-point lead; no team has cov­ered a gap of more than eight points in a sec­ond Test.

The re­cent pat­tern of a high Aus­tralia de­fence was main­tained

PHO­TO­GRAPH: TOMMY DICK­SON/INPHO

Ire­land’s Ai­dan O’Shea bat­tles for pos­ses­sion with Kade Simp­son dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional Rules se­ries first Test at the Ade­laide Oval, Ade­laide, yes­ter­day.

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