Earley wary of complacency as Ireland hammer poor Australia
Ireland 57 Australia 35: After this first test was won with leisurely ease, Irish manager Paul Earley was basking in a sense of 'mission accomplished' in the Breffni Room afterwards.
The danger is that with 22 points between the sides, it was a mission that might be too well accomplished. The on-pitch action was so one-sided and dull that there is a real fear that the second test will be remembered more for yawning chasms of empty seats in Croke Park this Saturday.
"Whether we won today or lost today, it is half-time, there is another game to go," said Earley.
"It will be a big challenge next week. We saw the way that they improved in that last quarter, that will give them a lot of confidence as well. We can't underestimate them next week."
Apart from one two-minute spell at the end of the third quarter that yielded a goal from Jake Neade, two overs and a behind, Australia were not worthy opponents.
When it was originally announced that Australia would be bringing a team of Aboriginal players, there was scepticism to go along with the novelty. Overall, there was approval of what could be seen as a token gesture to a race of people who have still not been represented with a head coach of a major Australian Rules club.
Scratch the surface though and we should have been worried before now. Looking down the team list, Shaun Edwards has played only a dozen times for his Greater Western Sydney club. Cameron Ellis-Yolmen and Dominic Barry have yet to make their senior debut for their clubs. Aaron Davey and Nathan Lovett-Murray had retired before being pressed into action for this series.
It is hard, indeed, to take the Australian team seriously when they only bring 21 players to the match, having made a big play beforehand of saying how they were going to use the interchange to its' full potential.
Australian coach Mick O'Loughlin cut a chastened figure afterwards.
"I was disappointed in our efforts, our ability to apply pressure was non-existent in that first half. For a team that prides itself on pressure, to chase and tackle, was disappointing and that is the harsh reality of it. Our guys got a real big wake-up call."
He continued: "Some guys got found out. Some guys individually were really holding the team together and that's ok. We live to fight another day and we go to Croke Park with an understanding of what is required."
They surely will identify a brutal first quarter when Ireland steamed 17-4 ahead. In the past, the Australians have coveted Jack McCaffrey's pace and Michael Murphy's power and both qualities were to the fore.
They stretched that lead in the second quarter and although Zach Tuohy and Neade traded goals, there was a stage when Steven Motlop – otherwise Australia's best player – hit the post with an open goal from a couple of yards out. Had that gone in, it would have left the margin at six points.
A late flourish from Ireland in the final quarter, capped by a Kevin McLoughlin goal, left things comfortable for them going into the second test.
At this point, that sporting fixture may seem a hard sell after an underwhelming evening, but Earley preferred to look on the bright side, saying, "You just hope that both sides having had a game under their belts and with dry conditions in Croke Park and with a faster pitch, I think a lot of people have bought tickets already for Croke Park. I hope we will have a very big crowd next weekend and they will cheer us on to a victory."
IRELAND: P O'Rourke, N McGee, F Hanley, C McKaigue, L Keegan, Z Tuohy (1-0-0), J McCaffrey (0-0-1), A Walsh, S Cavanagh (0-1-0), P Flynn (0-1-0), C Byrne (0-1-1), C Sheehan (0-1-1), P McBrearty, M Murphy (0-2-1), R Munnelly (0-2-3)
Interchange: C Begley (0-1-0), C Boyle (0-1-0), P Conroy, C Kilkenny, K McLoughlin (1-0-0), C McManus (0-1-2), A O'Shea (0-1-0), M Shields
AUSTRALIA: A McGrath, C Yarran, T Armstrong, C Ellis-Yolmen, J Harbrow, N Lovett-Murray, Lewis Jetta (0-1-0), D Wells (0-0-1), L Franklin (0-1-3), M Stokes (0-1-0), J Hill, Aaron Davey (0-0-1), S Motlop (0-2-2), L Thomas, E Betts
Interchange: S Wellingham, S Edwards, Alwyn Davey (0-1-0), J Neade (1-0-0), D Barry (0-0-1), Leroy Jetta (0-1-0)
Referee: Maurice Deegan [Laois], Matt Stevic [Australia]