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Sunday October 29, 2006 AFL :: Luke Mason

Ireland triumphs in first match

International Rules Series 2006 - First Test

Footy '06 @ Sports Australia Ireland have recorded an eight point triumph thanks to some frenetic play in the closing stages of the First Test in the of the 2006 International Rules Series at Pearse Stadium, Galway.

With less than a minute remaining, West Coast premiership defender Adam Selwood turned the ball over as the Australians looked to run down the clock, his pass intercepted by Steve McDonald, who booted his third over for the night, allowing Ireland a two point advantage. From the kick-in, Joel Burgan found himself in hectares of space, allowed to waltz in and seel the game with Ireland’s first six-point play of the evening.

The Irish were propelled to victory by that man McDonald, who was potent all night in attack, his cool and classy finishing a treat to watch. Goal keeper Alan Quirk, too, stood out for his ability to rise to the occasion when under pressure, while Paul Barden and AFL Swan Tadhg Kennelly were two of the key figures in the home nations victory.

For the Kevin Sheedy-led tourists, the Sydney forward trio from Ryan O’Keefe (18 points), Nick Davis and Barry Hall were magical in attack, while captain, Essendon’s Dustin Fletcher, starred in goals, repelling all comers in a terrific effort. Carlton pair Matthew Lappin and Kade Simpson were also more than serviceable with their dash and sure ball handling through the midfield.

Ireland opened the series in a blaze of glory, setting up a handy 12-point quarter time buffer, controlling much of the early play. The tourists began looking to maintain possession in the early minutes, but their plan came crashing down through poor disposal of the foreign ball, Irish forwards Paul Brogan, Steven McDonald and Graham Gehrity causing the Australian coaching camp plenty of headaches, while Irish star Kennelly bent back one of the overs of the series on the run from long range.

The Australians were led by experienced Carlton utility Matthew Lappin, who stood out in the midfield with his sure ball handling, while skipper Dustin Fletcher looked at home on the last line of defence.

Australia began the second term looking to atone for a somewhat disappointing opening, and got off on the right foot through overs to Lappin and the Melbourne livewire Aaron Davey, who ran onto a loose ball, broke a tackle and goaled.

The home side hit back, through Brisbane Lion Irish experiment Colm Begley, steadying the ship in the form of an over. Minutes later, star Sydney half forward nailed an over of his own, bringing the deficit back to six points. The Irish headed to the huddle at half time with a handy but far from convincing seven-point lead, Australia looking the more dangerous side prior to the main change.

It was Australia to again start off on the right note when the third stanza got under way, with Sydney pair Hall and Davis combining to open the scoring for the second half with an over, narrowing the gap to a mere four points. Davis’ over was somewhat eliminated minutes later through another Barden over.

Halfway through the third quarter, Australia showcased their talents, with Hall marking and converting the three points, the ball darting back into attack moments later when O’Keefe found space to mark and nail the over, the game back on an even keel.

As the game heated up, tempers began to fray, with Davey penalised for a minor dust up on the boundary line, on the receiving end of a yellow card, sentenced to a 15-minute spell on the sidelines.

The scores were levelled not long after through a Davis over, the canny Swan beginning to cut loose. The tourists would still be trailing had it not been for some more brilliance from keeper Fletcher under fierce pressure in the goalmouth.

The Aussies rammed home the advantage in the dying stages, with some magnificent team play from the two Swans forwards, O’Keefe and Davis, which resulted in a goal to the former, stretching the lead out to seven points without much time remaining. But an over in the final minute gave the Irish a sniff and won back some momentum to draw the margin back to a bare four points.

It was all Australia in the first half of the final term, peppering the attacking zone but to no avail, and running the ball out of defence through Lappin and Eagle Adam Selwood with relative ease. They were finally rewarded for their efforts at the midway stage of the term, that man O’Keefe again coming to the fore to score his third over for the night, the lead extended to eight points.

Shaun Cartner brought the game back to a six point margin, a lead which was closed even further by Steven McDonald, swung home one of the overs of the night on the left boot from long range. Joel Burgan marked in attack and scored an over to close the gap to a solitary point.

Holding on for grim death, Australia, through Selwood, who had played well for most of the night, turned the ball over in the final minute, allowing Steve McDonald to play the role of the hero, chopping off the kick, running into space and scoring the match winning over. From the kick-in, Burgan found himself on the end of a turnover, strolling in to ice the game with the Irish’s first goal of the night, the game ending with the home side leading by eight points in a dramatic turnaround.

The Australians will now be required to win by eight points or more next Monday night Australian time in order to retain the Cormic McAnnallan Trophy, as the series is awarded on an aggregate basis.

  Qtr Time Half Time 3 Qtr Time Final
Ireland 0. 5. 1 (16) 0. 6. 3 (21) 0. 8. 5 (29) 1.12.06.   48
Australia 0. 1. 1 (04) 0. 4. 2 (14) 1. 8. 3 (33) 1.09.07.   40

GOALS: Ireland – Burgan.
Australia – O’Keefe.

OVERS: Ireland – McDonnell 4, Barden, Begley, Bergin, Brogan, Cavanagh, Earley, Geraghty, Kennelly.
Australia – O’Keefe 3, Davis 2, Hall 2, Lappin, Davey.

BEST: Ireland – McDonald, Quirk, Burgan, Kennelly, Barden, McGeeney, Gehrity.
Australia – O’Keefe, Davis, Fletcher, Simpson, Lappin, McDonald, Stanton.

Injuries: Ireland – nil. Australia – nil.

Umpires: Pat McEnaney (Ireland), Shane McInerney (Australia)
@ Pearse Stadium, Galway, Ireland. Crowd: 35,000.

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