/ GAA

Australia 53-57 Ireland

Updated: Friday, 31 Oct 2008 13:52

The triumphant Irish team celebrate with the Cormac McAnallen Cup Michael Meehan evades the challenge of Kade Simpson
The triumphant Irish team celebrate with the Cormac McAnallen Cup Michael Meehan evades the challenge of Kade Simpson

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Ireland's Gaelic football stars fired four goals to the Australian net as they recaptured the Cormac McAnallen Cup in thrilling fashion with a 57-52 second Test victory in Melbourne.

Following on from their one-point win in Perth, Sean Boylan's men took the series on an aggregate score of 102-97 in wintry conditions at the MCG.

42,823 spectators braved the rain showers and blustery winds to watch Ireland triumph and level the all-time series record at seven each.

Benny Coulter (2), Kieran Donaghy and Enda McGinley slammed home Ireland's decisive goals, although a late six-pointer from Drew Petrie did jangle Irish nerves.

It was a stellar night for Ireland captain Sean Cavanagh. The Tyrone ace kicked four overs and managed 20 possessions.

Cork's granite-like defender Graham Canty was also immense. He amassed 28 disposals on the night on his way to being named Ireland's player of the series.

A fast start had Australia leading by nine points during the first quarter but Cavanagh got Ireland back within range and the tourists ran riot in the second quarter, picking up goals through Donaghy and McGinley.

Armed with a 36-21 half-time lead, Ireland looked strong but Australia responded in determined fashion with Marc Murphy punching home their first goal of the series.

Ireland's advantage was back to 17 points when Coulter netted and Donaghy collected a late over.

The fourth quarter produced some lively attacks, with Shaun Burgoyne, Petrie and Coulter all grabbing goals, and the latter's 65th-minute effort was enough to see the Irish over the finishing line.

Suitably fired-up, Mick Malthouse's home side started strongly with Burgoyne and Daniel Wells registering overs for a 6-0 score-line.

Sean Cavanagh and Steven McDonnell nabbed Ireland's opening scores - an over and two behinds - but the Australians, displaying improved kicking skills, ended the first quarter 15-12 ahead.

Wells, Petrie, skipper Brent Harvey, Campbell Browne and Daniel Motlop all fired either side of the Irish posts to maintain the Australian lead and nudge them ahead in the series.

A behind from Ryan Crowley, at the start of the second quarter, saw Malthouse's side continued where they left off.

However, Ireland rallied immediately and impressively scored a goal and two overs (15 points) in the space of five minutes.

Owning possession for that period and picking off a series of excellent marks, the tourists snuck through for the game's first goal when Donaghy capitalised on a defensive mix-up.

The Australians had completely lost their grip on the game and could only stem the tide slightly with an over from Michael Osborne just before half-time.

By that stage, Ireland had worked themselves a second goal with McGinley the scorer. The goal was sandwiched by behinds from McDonnell, McGinley and Cavanagh as the Irish hit the interval with a 15-point buffer.

Paddy Bradley made it 18 on the resumption but by the tenth-minute of the third quarter, the hosts had cut the gap to just six points.

They rifled over a succession of scores - Jared Brennan, Crowley, Harvey and Motlop shared out an over and three behinds - before Ireland goalkeeper David Gallagher leaked his first goal.

A scramble close to the Irish square resulted in a six-pointer for Murphy, who scrambled the ball to the net.

Then Ireland managed another spurt before the third quarter came to a close. A couple of behinds and a Donaghy over were added to a much-needed goal from Coulter.

The Down attacker slotted low past Australian goalkeeper Michael Firrito, after Michael Meehan has snaffled possession and chipped the ball across to him.

17 points to the good (50-33) as the final quarter began, Ireland faced into a gusting wind for the closing 18 minutes and had to stave off a concerted Australian revival.

Two overs and another brace of behinds had the Aussies back within nine points, with Petrie, Kade Simpson and Wells on target.

Suddenly, there was just an over between the sides. Burgoyne placed a low shot beyond the grasp of Gallagher for a well-taken goal, after Ireland had failed to clear their lines.

Ireland responded brilliantly with Coulter's second strike.

Barely a minute after Burgoyne's score, Donaghy forced an error from the Australian rearguard from a high ball, helping to break it into space for Coulter to tap home with his fist.

Despite some defensive heroics from Canty and Joe McMahon and well-placed possessions by Colm Begley, Ireland were not home and dry just yet.

There were still seven minutes plus injury-time left in this well-contested and high-action encounter.

And Petrie duly ensured a nervy finish for Boylan's charges as he hammered home another goal from close range.

Nonetheless, with Donaghy winning the throw-up in midfield, Ireland were able to pin Australia back in their half for most of the remaining minutes, completing a memorable series win.

And with the ugly scenes and off-the-ball incidents of previous years replaced by two Tests of fair football and no end of passion and skill, the hybrid game looks to have assured its future as an annual event.

Scorers for Australia (53): Drew Petrie 13 (1-2-1), Shaun Burgoyne 9 (1-1-0), Daniel Wells 7 (0-2-1), Marc Murphy 6 (1-0-0), Campbell Brown 3 (0-1-0), Jared Brennan 3 (0-1-0), Michael Osborne 3 (0-1-0), Brent Harvey 3 (0-0-3), Daniel Motlop 3 (0-0-3), Ryan Crowley 2 (0-0-2), Kade Simpson 1 (0-0-1).

Scorers for Ireland (57): Benny Coulter 15 (2-1-0), Sean Cavanagh 14 (0-4-2), Kieran Donaghy 9 (1-1-0), Enda McGinley 7 (1-0-1), Steven McDonnell 4 (0-0-4), Paddy Bradley 3 (0-1-0), Paul Finlay 3 (0-1-0), Leighton Glynn 1 (0-0-1), Colm Begley 1 (0-0-1).

Australia: Michael Firrito; Roger Hayden, Nathan Bock, Campbell Brown; Ryan Crowley, Drew Petrie, Adam Selwood; Brent Harvey (capt), Daniel Wells; Marc Murphy, Jared Brennan, David Rodan; Michael Osborne, Shaun Burgoyne, Matt Campbell.

Interchange Players: Matthew Boyd, Nathan Foley, Josh Hunt, Leigh Montagna, Daniel Motlop, Scott Pendlebury, Brad Sewell, Kade Simpson, Dale Thomas.

Ireland: David Gallagher; Aidan O'Mahony, Finian Hanley, John Keane; Bryan Cullen, Kevin Reilly, Ciaran McKeever; Graham Canty, Colm Begley; Enda McGinley, Sean Cavanagh (capt), Joe McMahon; Steven McDonnell, Kieran Donaghy, Leighton Glynn.

Interchange Players: Paddy Bradley, Benny Coulter, Justin McMahon, Michael Meehan, John Miskella, Paul Finlay, Marty McGrath, Killian Young.

Referees: Stephen McBurney (Australia), Pat McEnaney (Ireland)