Australia step up a gear to crush Irish dream of glory at Stormont cricket clash
For a few overs in a reduced run-chase, Ireland and the vast majority of the 3,500 spectators at Stormont dared to dream of victory over the world champions.
While Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien were consistently scoring at eight and nine runs an over in a thrilling third wicket partnership, Australia were under pressure.
But it was too good to last and once spinner Glenn Maxwell had broken the partnership, the express pace of Pat Cummins and the world's No 1 ODI bowler Mitchell Starc were called up to end the Ireland charge.
The hosts fell just 23 runs short but let no-one down and impressed the new Australian captain Steven Smith.
"They have a couple of players who can hurt you. Ed and Niall are good players and the more matches Ireland play the more they will improve," said Smith.
"In these conditions their bowlers can be very effective. When I was batting, Tim Murtagh hit the seam when the ball was quite old and caused us problems but we had enough players to get the job done."
Opposite number William Porterfield agreed it was class that told in the end.
"We played quite well and came back strongly in both innings. It is one of the harder periods in 50-over cricket to take wickets, through the middle period, so that was really pleasing against such quality opposition and then to come back from losing two early wickets, Nobby and Joycey set us up," he said.
"Their class showed in the end, though, and while we had a couple of cameos, we came up just 20 runs short," added the Ireland captain.
The cameo came from Stuart Thompson, who hit Maxwell for two sixes in the 19th over of their 24-over chase.
At the end of it, they were 135 for five, needing just 46 from the last five overs but two each were bowled by Cummins and Starc and such was the pace of one Cummins delivery that it broke Thompson's bat!
Only 13 singles were scored in the four overs and the third member of the pace triumvirate, Nathan Coulter-Nile, applied the coup de grace by taking two wickets in the last over.
Porterfield was one of the two early wickets.
Three years ago against Australia on this ground, he was out first ball - yesterday he lasted four balls longer but, again, could not survive the first over, beaten by a superb inswinging yorker from Starc.
Paul Stirling survived only three balls, more by luck than judgement.
The first he played and missed at, the second and third he edged and the fourth he touched, to an expansive ill-judged drive off Coulter-Nile and was caught behind.
It was left to Joyce, 44 off 33 balls, and O'Brien, with five fours in his 45 from 53 balls, to get Ireland back on track and lift the crowd's spirits, dampened so much by the rain which took the players off on four occasions.
However as Smith had predicted: "I always thought we were just one wicket away from cracking it open."
When Joyce went the rest duly followed inside 10 overs.
To be fair the Australia innings followed a similar pattern, the only difference being they lost just six wickets and it followed an opening stand of 139.
Joe Burns, on his ODI debut, and man of the match David Warner (84 from 80 balls) took an instant liking to the Ireland bowling and in the 10 powerplay overs had put 80 on the board.
Craig Young, in his first bowl against a Test nation, quickly noticed a major step up in opposition class, his third over going for 17 runs, having already conceded that number in his first two overs.
But with the extra three fielders outside the circle, it became much more difficult for the two runaway batsmen and apart from one John Mooney over, which went for 12, Ireland kept them in check.
The pressure eventually told in the 22nd over when Young had Burns caught behind for 69, eight runs after he had also been caught by Niall O'Brien, but off a no-ball!
O'Brien, keeping wicket in an ODI for the first time in four years, held three catches, the best of them to dismiss Smith for just 21 while Andy McBrine removed the dangerous Maxwell early.