Ireland overcame a quick Australian side in Cavan in the first test of the international rules series. The home side were victorious and a 22 point margin divided the teams at the final whistle.
Ireland’s fluency, understanding of the round ball, their high technical ability and excellent fielding allowed them to get the better of Australia. Early indications from the travelling Australian squad indicated that they aimed to out play the Irish with a noticeable lack of heavy hitters and the inclusion of excellent footballers.
Ireland faired best in the early exchanges and seemed un-phased by the Australian war dance which opened proceedings. Donegal ace and Irish captain Michael Murphy drew the first blood with a free in the first minute of play.
It took Australia three minutes to respond when Stephen Motlop tapped a free over the bar. However, from the following kick-out the ball made its way to Murphy who made no mistake and smartly fired over to give the home side a four point advantage.
The opening exchanges were sloppy with both sides vying for control and it took five minutes before either side added to their tally when an opportunistic Lance Franklin hit a one-pointer.
Ireland slowly began to assert and had a nine point advantage when Munnelly and Begley both pointed to give the home side a distinct advantage within the first quarter.
Munnelly, the Laois star, slowly began to express himself and Ireland began to dominate proceedings. The Laois forward was majestic in his ability to read the play and was getting out in front for every ball.
Australia opened the scoring with Motlop adding one point while Jack McCaffrey scored a behind to extend the home side’s advantage to 13 points.
McCaffrey and Paddy McBrearty combined in the first 10 minutes of the opening half but the Donegal forward was carried out over the end line and the opportunity was wasted. The game seemed to be slipping away from the Aussies when both Aidan O’Shea and Ciaran Byrne kicked three points for the Irish who now lead by 24-9.
Munnelly and Cavanagh both added to the home sides tally before the break. Cavanagh contributed with an excellent 50m over. The sides left the park at half time with the home side leading 28-9.
The second half continued as the first and Ireland began to dominate. Excellent work from Tyrone’s Seán Cavanagh saw him through on goal but much to the dismay of the Irish supporters the shot was smothered by the Australian keeper McGrath.
Zac Tuohy scored the first goal of the match. The Laois native moved with ease through the visiting defence and left McGrath with no chance in the Australian goal. The Laois man who had spent a spell in Australian extended the home advantage to 24 points.
Australia narrowed the gap with a well taken goal from Jack Neade. Australia added three points from the boot of Jetta and it was now a 16 point game. Excellent Australian play saw the gap narrow further to 8 points. Motlob was unlucky not to rattle the onion bag and an over from Stokes narrowed the divide. The Australians now seemed a serious threat to the Irish side but Irish captain Murphy was quick to respond with a behind to ease the pressure on the home side.
Kevin McLoughlin’s late goal ensured an Irish victory, Mcloughlin fired passed McGrath and the Australian keeper had no chance. Ireland take a 22 point advantage into the final game of the series which takes place next Saturday at GAA headquarters.