Ireland 2-10 Scotland 2-08

Ireland shaded the Shinty/Hurling international at Croke Park with late scores from Eoin Price and Shane Nolan.

Fraser Heath and Kevin Bartlett both scored Scottish goals in the first half but Patrick Bonner Maher and Zane Keenan, who had been Ireland’s outstanding attacker, both hit the net for the home side.

Ireland led by 2-7 to 2-6 at half-time, and a low-scoring second half produced just two scores in almost 40 minutes, until the Irish staged a late and decisive flourish.

Scotland got in for their first goal in the seventh minute. Goalkeeper Eoin Reilly failed to deal with Steven McDonald’s long delivery, and Fraser Heath finished to the net.

However Ireland replied through Keenan, who slotted over from wide on the right.

The Irish, with Clare’s David McInerney prompting from midfield, continued to dominate possession and territory, and Keenan was just wide when he went for goal direct from a free.

Neil Macauley and Keenan, with a two-pointer, brought the home side level by the 20th minute, but they failed to take full advantage of the opportunities they were creating, and were vulnerable to pacey Scottish breaks.

Maher showed neat stick-work to slot home a 28th minute goal, but the  Scots punished in the 32nd minute when Kevin Bartlett sent a rocket to the net, reacting sharply to the loose ball after McDonald had lofted in a ’65.

Pa Kelly’s introduction helped give the Ireland defence a more solid look, and they survived a couple of dangerous moments before getting a lucky break just before the interval. Keenan’s dropping shot was misjudged by goalkeeper Stuart Macintosh and went direct to the net.

Ireland turned around with a 2-7 to 2-6 lead, but Scotland pushed on in a scrappy third quarter, coming up against solid Ireland defending from James Toher, Kelly and captain Matthew Whelan.

The Scots could only manage a two-point conversion from Bartlett during that spell, but worryingly for the home side they struggled to break out of their own half.

Bartlett was off target with a couple of sideline cut efforts, and Ireland countered to create a genuine goal chance, but John Barr got back to get in a superbly timed interception.

Deadlocked on 2-8 each heading into the final quarter, both sides were searching for the inspiration that would give them the edge.

Maher and TJ Reid were being squeezed out of the game by a tight-marking Scots defence, the Kilkenny star held scoreless on a frustrating evening.

Ireland’s main threat continued to come from Keenan, who turned away from marker Finlay Macrae but skewed his shot just wide in a moment of hope for the Irish.

Bartlett’s threat was now considerably reduced by the attentions of the combative Mickey Burke, and Ireland were rewarded for their defensive solidity in the end.

Having conceded just one score in the entire second half, they were able to find the openings in the dying moments for Price and Nolan to slot over the winning scores.

Ireland: E Reilly, B Murphy, J Toher, M Burke, M Whelean, D Healy, D McNicholas (0-01), D McInerney, N McAuley (0-01), Z Keenan (1-05), P Maher (1-00), E Price (0-02), TJ Reid, S Nolan (0-01).

Interchange subs: P Kelly, P Divilly, B Deay, N O Muineachain

Scotland: S Mackintosh, F Macrae, C Millar, S McDonald (0-02), R Kennedy, L Bain, D Cameron, J Barr, C Cormack, K Bartlett (1-06), R MacDonald, K Mackintosh, G Mackintosh, F Heath (1-00).

Interchange subs: G Irvine, Z Ferguson, P Macarthur, N Reid

Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny)