By Micil Glennon
Ireland took a huge step towards regaining the Cormac McAnallen Cup with a comprehensive 44-point victory over Australia in the 2011 International Rules Series first Test in Melbourne.
Goals from Michael Murphy, Eamonn Callaghan, Leighton Glynn and Steven McDonnell helped the Irish to a practically unassailable lead ahead of next week’s second Test.
Aussie-based trio Tadhg Kennelly, Tommy Walsh and Zach Tuohy controlled the game from the start and the young and inexperienced home side had no answer, with captain Brad Green scoring the only goal for Rodney Eade’s team.
Having chased the series from the beginning last year, Ireland got off to a flying start in the first-quarter and Sydney Swan Walsh didn’t need to be asked twice when presented with a 40-metre shot in front of the posts after three minutes.
Leighton Glynn doubled the lead just a minute later with another over from 20 metres. It was clear that the Irish had brought their shooting boots and the Aussies hadn’t as they notched up three bad wides in the opening quarter in addition to Zac Smith dropping a handy free into Stephen Cluxton’s arms.
Michael Murphy then added another over after marking Kennelly’s cross before the home side opened their scoring through Mark Nicoski’s behind. But that only fired the Irish up more and Kennelly shot over on the run and Murphy ran unhindered through the middle to lash the ball past Matthew Suckling in the Aussie goal.
Stephen Milne got Australia’s first over with three minutes left in the quarter, but Steven McDonnell had the last say with a magnificent kick from the sideline that sailed between the posts to give Ireland a 22-4 lead.
Ireland were far more composed in possession than in previous years, showing great judgment in marking and moving when appropriate. They also had the upper hand in contact with the AFL trio of Walsh, Tuohy and Kennelly tackling hard, much to the surprise of the home players in the covered Etihad Stadium.
The second quarter offered little respite for the Aussies. Kevin McKernan added an over either side of one-pointers from Tuohy and Donaghy. Eamonn Callaghan scored Ireland’s second goal midway through the second quarter, lobbing the ball into an empty net after Suckling had come off his line.
Robin Nahas did manage an over off a mark but McDonnell and Walsh did the same down the other end. Needing to stop the flow of scores, Mitch Robinson landed an over and captain Brad Green slid in for a goal after an uncharacteristic, risky pass from Cluxton.
But it was left to McDonnell to finish the first half with an over from a free-kick that gave Anthony Tohill’s side a 24-point lead.
Australia looked to reduce the margin after the break with Green and Gray adding overs but, after Emmet Bolton was stretchered off and a minor melee, Donaghy, Glynn and McKeever all scored three-pointers before Gray slotted over to finish the quarter. Ireland still led by 33 points.
St Kilda’s Milne got the first score of the last period but after that the Aussies seemed to lose all interest and Glynn was left alone to smash home a goal from 20 yards. Donaghy added an over and McDonnell got Ireland’s fourth six-pointer from an acute angle with ten minutes to play.
Green and Angus Monfries reduced the margin with overs but McDonnell and Aidan Walsh were also on target to put the series beyond doubt ahead of the second Test in Queensland next week.
Ireland: Goals 4; Overs 17; Behinds 5
Australia: Goals 1; Overs 8; Behinds 6
1st quarter score: Aus 4-22 Irl
Half-time score: Aus 20-44 Irl
3rd quarter score: Aus 26-59 Irl
Full-time score: Aus 36-80 Irl
1st quarter: Aus 4-22 Irl
2nd quarter: Aus 16-22 Irl
3rd quarter: Aus 6-15 Irl
4th quarter: Aus 10-21 Irl
Top scorers: Irl - Steven McDonnell (18 points); Aus – Brad Green (11 points)
Stephen Cluxton (Dublin), Ciarán McKeever (Armagh), Finian Hanley (Galway), Neil McGee (Donegal), Kevin McKernan (2 overs, 1 behind) (Down), Pearse Hanley (1 behind) (Mayo/Brisbane Lions), Colm Begley (Laois), Zach Touhy (1 behind) (Laois/Carlton), Tadhg Kennelly (1 over) (Kerry/Sydney Swans), Leighton Glynn (1 goal, 2 overs) (Wicklow), Tommy Walsh (3 overs) (Kerry/St Kilda), Joe McMahon (Tyrone), Michael Murphy (1 goal, 2 overs)(Donegal), Kieran Donaghy (2 overs, 2 behinds) (Kerry), Steven McDonnell (1 goal, 4 overs) (Armagh).
Replacements: Brendan Murphy (Carlow), Kevin Reilly (Meath), Karl Lacey (Donegal), Darren Hughes (Monaghan), Eoin Cadogan (Cork), Aidan Walsh (1 over) (Cork), Patrick Kelly (Cork), Eamon Callaghan (1 goal) (Kildare), Emmet Bolton (Kildare).
Matthew Suckling (Hawthorn), Liam Shiels (Hawthorn), Andrew Swallow (North Melbourne), Ben McGlynn (Sydney Swans), Easton Wood (Western Bulldogs). Mitch Robinson (1 over, 1 behind)(Carlton), Angus Monfries (1 over) (Essendon), James Kelly (Geelong Cats), James Frawley (Melbourne), Zac Smith (Gold Coast Suns), Bernie Vince (Adelaide Crows), Jake King (Richmond), Mark Nicoski (2 behinds) (West Coast), David Wojcinski (Geelong Cats), Stephen Milne (2 overs) (St Kilda), Richard Douglas (1 over, 1 behind) (Adelaide Crows), Robbie Gray (1 over) (Port Adelaide), Brad Green (1 goal, 1 over, 2 behinds)(Melbourne), Shaun Grigg (Richmond), Trent McKenzie (Gold Coast Suns), Robin Nahas (1 over) (Richmond), Jack Trengove (Melbourne), Callan Ward (GWS Giants).