Brian McEniff ended his tenure as Ireland manager with a comprehensive 71-52 victory over Australia to take the International Rules series at Adelaide's Football Park this afternoon. A wonderfully committed and skilful performance from the Irish gave the Donegal man the perfect send-off following last year's disappointing series defeat in Dublin, and Ireland fully deserved their 19-point winning margin with some excellent play throughout the eighty minutes.
The tourists took the game to their hosts from the whistle and opened the scoring in the second minute when Meath's Graham Geraghty struck for a single point, while Galway's Michael Donnellan extended Ireland's lead with the first over two minutes later. Captain Anthony Tohill, Derry, led by example from start to finish with an all action display, and scored the game's first goal in the seventh minute with a composed finish from close range following excellent approach play from Brendan Devenney.
Cormac Sullivan was tested on several occasions by the Australian forwards but the Meath goalkeeper was equal to everything thrown at him. With both teams evenly matched in an absorbing opening quarter, Geraghty edged Ireland in front early in the second period when he capitalised on some sloppy play in the Australian defence. The centre forward intercepted a careless pass and a surging run took him clear of the Australian rearguard to beat Simon Goodwin with a clinical finish from ten yards.
The impressive Matthew Lloyd pulled a goal back for the home side after pouncing on a breaking ball from 15 yards before half-time. The sides were separated by a single point at the interval (33-32 to Australia), but Ireland began the third with renewed vigour and Kerry's Seamus Moynihan was denied a certain goal on the restart by the goalkeeping skills of Goodwin, who was playing only his second game between the posts.
A succession of scores from Galway's Padraig Joyce, and Kerry duo Tadgh Kennelly and Johnny Crowley gave Ireland a nine point advantage in the 49th minute, one they were never to lose. With their hopes of retaining the title fading, Australia became more ragged and Blake Carassella was sinbinned for a dangerously high tackle on Derry's Sean Marty Lockhart. Five minutes from time Brenton Sanderson and Crowley were both shown the yellow card for a confrontation that sparked a brawl involving players from both sides, but with Joyce and Kennelly continuing to score, Ireland stretched their lead to take the series 2-0.
Afterwards, manager Brian McEniff was overjoyed by Ireland's fantastic performance. "Twelve months waiting and a ghost buried," he smiled. "Thankfully, the lads really performed to their maximum in the second half. They played the traditional Gaelic game, which I had asked them to do in the first half, but in fact we were apprehensive in that first half and on top of that, to be fair to the Australians, they did close us down and gave us very little opportunity to run at them," pointed out McEniff.
"As the game wore on, contrary to expectations, we outran the Australians but we have strength in the lower part of our bodies that they don't really have and we have speed. Some of the performances, particularly from the full-forward line were immense," he added.
One player in particular who really impressed his manager was Galway's Padraig Joyce. "Padraig Joyce gave a wonderful display. I spoke to him last night and I thought this morning that it was worth a phone call to John O'Mahony. I phoned him in London, spoke to him and I felt I what I had done was enough and I didn't need to go back to Padraig. I had asked him for a big commitment and he gave it to me out there tonight but he was one of many I had to say," explained McEniff.
When asked why he approached O'Mahony for advice, McEniff said: "He would know a lot of the lads themselves and what makes them tick and the Galway lads, to be fair, hadn't performed that well last week but they gave a great performance out there today as did Graham Geraghty and my own Brendan Devenney. Darren Fay at full-back was my man-of-the-match while Sean Marty Lockhart also impressed and goalkeeper Cormac O'Sullivan was out of this world," added the Irish boss.
Filed by Shane Murray & Amanda Fennelly