Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Ireland majestic against Australia but International Rules in doubt

Job done: Ireland's Ross Munnelly, Zach Tuohy and Colm Begley celebrate at the finish

Ireland 116 Australia 37 (Ireland win 173-72 on aggregate): In the end, Australia manager Michael O'Loughlin summed it up best – it was like watching an U-18 team take on an U-13 team.

That's how it felt for the beleaguered Aussie boss watching his team slump to a record International Rules series defeat on Saturday night.

And that's pretty much how it looked too for the 28,525 supporters at Croke Park who turned out to witness a rampant Ireland secure back to back titles by 101 points.

It was a historic victory made in Ulster as Monaghan's Conor McManus top scored with 24 points on the night, allowing Donegal's Michael Murphy to lift the cup named after Tyrone legend Cormac McAnallen.

Quite where the series goes from here, however, is anyone's guess. Both the GAA and AFL insist they are committed to the project though this year's complete mismatch may prove damaging.

Paul Earley's Ireland came into Saturday's series decider holding a 22-point lead.

There was talk of Australia playing to their strengths, literally, and also of them going for goals early on.

But the visitors were simply steamrolled and the first of McManus' two goals put Ireland 30-8 ahead after the first quarter, doubling their overall advantage to 44 points and effectively ending the contest.

"I think sometimes there are hasty reactions to big defeats," said Earley.

"Ireland were defeated 100 points to 64 in 2005 by a very, very strong and very skilful Australian team.

"So if Australia were to put out their best team again they would be very close games. So I don't think there's a necessity to tamper with the rules whatsoever.

"It's about Australia playing their best team which is what we've always wanted. The whole basis of the series was about putting Ireland's best against Australia's best and having a very strong contest."

Australia broke from tradition this year by picking indigenous players only, a ploy that backfired badly in scoring terms.

Aside from McManus, who shot 2-4 on the night, Lee Keegan, Ciaran Sheehan, Ross Munnelly, Murphy and Donegal colleague Paddy McBrearty all hit double digit tallies.

By half-time Ireland led 53-16, 110 to 51 overall, though they didn't let up and kept going for goals.

"Our players are professional in everything they do other than getting paid and professional players steamroll the opposition," continued Earley. "When we got 20 points ahead we wanted to make it 40 and when we got to 40 points we wanted to make it 80. That's what good teams do."

It was fitting that Murphy lifted the cup as captain after two strong performances which sandwiched his county final heroics with Glenswilly last Sunday.

"I think it's a fantastic game, an enjoyable game," said Murphy.

"We wanted to put on a good show and really give it the respect it deserved. I think we did that over the four quarters."

Mayo's Colm Boyle was lifted off the field with concussion but suffered no ill effects afterwards.

Australia, who engaged in a high profile drinking session throughout last Sunday evening and Monday morning, were flat footed throughout.

"It was like the best U-18 team playing the U-13s and we were the U-13s obviously," said O'Loughlin, who admitted the whitewash left him feeling 'ill' and 'sick'.

Ireland: P O'Rourke; N McGee, M Shields (0-0-1), C McKaigue (0-1-0); L Keegan (0-3-2), Z Tuohy, J McCaffrey (1-0-0); A Walsh (0-0-1), S Cavanagh (0-1-1); P Flynn (0-1-2), C Byrne, C Sheehan (0-3-1); R Munnelly (0-3-1), M Murphy (0-4-0), C McManus (2-4-0).

Interchange: C Begley (0-0-1), C Boyle, P Conroy (1-0-1), J Doyle (0-0-1), C Kilkenny (1-1-0), P McBrearty (1-1-2), C McKeever, K McLoughlin.

Australia: A McGrath; J Harbrow (0-0-1), C Yarran, T Armstrong; S Wellingham (0-1-0), S Edwards, N Lovett-Murray; D Wells, C Ellis-Yolmen; M Stokes (0-0-1), S Motlop, Aaron Davey; J Neade (1-0-1), Lewis Jetta (0-2-0), E Betts (1-1-0).

Interchange: Leroy Jetta, L Thomas (0-1-0), Alwyn Davey (0-1-0), J Hill (0-1-1), D Barry.

Referees: M Deegan (Ireland), M Stevic (Australia).

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