By Mark Jones
In the end, superior fitness was the difference as the professional players of Australia finished strongly to edge out Ireland in the first of the International Rules test matches at Croke Park last Sunday.
Playing to an agreed compromised format between Gaelic football and Aussie Rules, the Irish selection led for all but the closing minutes when the Australians plundered two late goals to snatch victory.
With the home team accustomed to championship games over 70 minutes, the extra ten minutes in this case proved crucial as manager Colm O’Rourke’s players visibly ran out of stamina.
As previous International Rules matches had been marked by spectacular punch-ups, some of the 23,000 attendance had no doubt turned up to see if tempers would fray once again.
This time there was only one melee worth reporting after which Ireland’s goalkeeper, Finbarr McConnell, appeared to have been sent off. However, he was reprieved by the match officials during the interval.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
Irish superiority for much of the contest, with Meath’s John McDermott and Brian Stynes of Dublin playing key roles, dissipated rapidly near the final whistle when Nathan Eagleton and David Neitz scored goals for the Australians.
O’Rourke was also left with some patching up to do before Sunday’s second game — the series will be decided by the aggregate scores from the two tests — as Colm McManamon, Stynes and McDermott are all extremely doubtful because of injury.