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International Rules: Super Ireland out of sight already

By John Campbell

Australia 36 Ireland 80: The green and white ribbons can be attached to the Cormac McAnallen Cup now.

The trophy will be going back to Ireland, next Friday’s second International Rules Test having already been rendered nothing more than an academic exercise following an embarrassingly one-sided victory by Anthony Tohill’s side at the Etihad Stadium, Melbourne yesterday.

Indeed, critics of the Rules series — and Tyrone boss Mickey Harte is among the most vociferous — certainly had a field day as Australia’s dubious commitment to the series, the lamentable aspects of some of their play and the apathy of the public at large — the crowd was a disappointing 22,021 — has now placed a huge question mark over the future of the competition.

On the basis that a team that can only beat what is put in front of them, Ireland were clinical, competitive and ultimately assured as they assembled a mammoth 44-point advantage — a record winning margin in the series overall — which they will carry into the second Test.

But one shudders to think just what the level of interest might be in this confrontation given the anaemic efforts of the host nation yesterday.

Ireland’s five players who are currently plying their trade in Australian Rules Football — Tommy Walsh, Pearse Hanley, Tadgh Kennelly, Zach Tuohy and Colm Begley — led the destruction of their colleagues, their combined guile, physicality and power completely dismantling the Aussie challenge.

Manager Tohill’s delight at his team’s victory was nonetheless tempered with caution.

“I thought that the performances of our players who are currently involved in Australian Rules Football were superb, absolutely superb,” he said.

“I had a feeling that we would come good — when you are working closely with players, you sense their determination.

“But we are not getting carried away. Because we won by 44 points this time does not mean that Australia cannot win by 45 points next Friday.

“The series is still there to be won and we would regard ourselves as having reached half-time.”

Certainly the scoring power of Steven McDonnell, Leighton Glynn and Kevin McKernan allied to the work-rate of Kennelly, Walsh, Michael Murphy and Finian Hanley underscored this runaway Ireland win while the spirit which Tohill and his selectors have inculcated was evident throughout.

In contrast Australia, raw and inexperienced, were fragmented and disjointed, woeful in their finishing and markedly vulnerable at the back. No wonder their beleaguered manager Rodney Eade looked shellshocked.

“Ireland were much more physical than we expected and their kicking was sensational. They were hitting accurate 50-metre passes which is extraordinary. The use of the round ball was extreme — we had difficulties with it whereas the Irish were very comfortable,” admitted Eade.

But he suggested that Australia will not be “so nice” in the second Test. “We were probably too nice on this occasion but we won’t be so nice the next day. There could be fireworks then,” he rapped.

Even by the end of the first quarter it was clear that Ireland held the whip hand.

Michael Murphy had already blazed in their opening goal, Glynn, Kennelly and McDonnell had landed overs and at 22-4 the tourists had one foot in the comfort zone.

When Eamon Callaghan fired in goal number two in the second quarter and Walsh, McDonnell and Kernan piled on more overs, the last rites had already been administered to the home team’s feeble challenge when they trailed by 44-20.

Australian captain Brad Green, who had a trial with Manchester United some years ago, pirated their only goal just before half-way following a rare mistake by Ireland goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton but the score proved no more than a pin-prick in the tourists’ by then sky-high morale — this despite the fact that Emmet Bolton was stretchered off after incurring concussion in a heavy challenge.

The Irish restricted themselves to 15 points in the third quarter at the end of which they were ahead 59-26.

But they rubbed a great deal of salt into Australia’s gaping wounds by grabbing further goals from Glynn and McDonnell in a one-sided fourth quarter to streak so far over the horizon that their trip to Queensland for the next Test will now simply assume the status of a holiday safari.

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