By Mark Jones
Australia 55 (0-14-13), Ireland 47 (1-10-11)
DUBLIN — If it wasn’t quite the spectacle of two years ago, last Sunday’s first International Rules test at Croke Park attacted nearly 40,000 spectators who watched Australia turn on the power in the final quarter. With the two tests based on total aggregate, Ireland will find it difficult now to come back from an eight-point deficit, 55-47.
Certainly, manager Brian McEniff will be checking on the availability of Michael Donnellan, Seamus Moynihan and Sean de Paor, who were unavailable due to All-Ireland duties. All three are experienced Rules campaigners, and judging by the way the Australians gradually improved throughout the first game, McEniff could do with some reinforcements for Sunday’s decisive second test.
He will also be no doubt aware that the Aussies — all full-time professionals — will have more time to prepare than the Irish, who have just one training session in the build-up.
“I wouldn’t have been happy with that first performance,” McEniff said. “We hadn’t anywhere near the sort of lead we needed going into the final quarter and that cost us.”
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The Irish had begun brightly, racing into a 12-0 lead on scoring system that allows six points for a goal, three for an over, and one for a behind. With Graham Geraghty, Ciaran Whelan and Larry Reilly especially prominent, that lead was 28-19 at halftime, and when Geraghty flicked the ball home for the only goal of the game early in the third quarter, Ireland looked to be on their way to victory.
However, the Australians began to get on top with excellent contributions from Justin Leppitsch and Blake Caracella and the home team’s lead was just six going into the final quarter.
“Some of our players haven’t had a game of this intensity for quite a while,” said Ireland’s captain, Trevor Giles, “but, hopefully, we’ll be more up to the pace in the second test.”
The second test is this Sunday. U.S. fans will be able to watch the game at 10 a.m. Eastern time via Setanta Sports. Details from www.setanta.com or (415) 566-6701.
Ireland: C. Sullivan (Meath); O. Sexton (Cork), D. Fay (Meath), S.M. Lockhart (Derry), F. Cullen (Offaly), G. Ryan (Kildare), A. Rainbow (Kildare), A. Tohill (Derry), C. Whelan (Dublin); T Giles (Meath), B Stynes (Dublin), D. Earley (Kildare), L. Reilly (Cavan), G. Geraghty (Meath), P. Canavan (Tyrone). Interchange players: M. Crossan (Donegal), S. Quinn (Leitrim), J. McGee (Dublin), P. McGrane (Armagh), G. Cavlan (Tyrone), C. McManamon (Mayo), C. McManus (Offaly), C. Moran (Dublin).