Australia will take a 10-point lead into Saturday’s decisive International Rules Second Test after beating Ireland 63-53 in Adelaide on Sunday.
Michael Murphy’s goal early in the second quarter helped put Ireland 10 ahead but Australia dominated the third quarter to move into a 50-35 lead.
Ireland cut Australia’s advantage to seven with eight minutes left but Luke Shuey then netted for the hosts.
Australia’s other goal came from Nat Fyfe in their dominant third quarter.
Conor McManus netted an impressive seven overs (three pointers) for the series holders as the Irish relied on the Monaghan star and Donegal’s Murphy for the bulk of their scores.
In contrast, Australia’s scores were spread around their team although Ireland’s improved final quarter will mean that Joe Kernan’s squad will believe that they can still rescue the series in Perth.
An Irish victory by more than 10 points next Sunday would see them retaining the series on points aggregate.
Hanley injury further blow for under-strength Irish
However, Ireland could go into the Second Test without their Australian Rules star Pearce Hanley who was forced off by a hand injury in the first half.
The Irish squad travelled down under with only 23 players and a travel sickness bug left them depleted for the First Test as Hanley, Niall Murphy and Enda Smith were all affected.
Thus, Kernan’s ability to interchange players in the 34 degree heat was restricted and the conditions particularly appeared to affect the Irish in the third quarter as they were outscored 22-8.
The Australians looked comfortable with the round ball as they outscored Ireland by two goals to one while Australian goalkeeper Brendan Goddard produced a brilliant display of sweeping with his anticipation, in addition to a couple of smart saves, cutting out a number of goal chances.
Ireland lose way after promising start
Ireland started well with McManus and Murphy notching impressive three-pointers as the visitors’ long-kicking game proved effective.
Leading 15-14 at the end of the first quarter, Murphy’s goal helped extend Ireland’s advantage to 10 as the Donegal man finished low to the net after a superb move involving Shane Walsh, Paul Geaney and Hanley.
However, Australia bossed the remainder of the second quarter to move 28-27 ahead as Fyfe and Ben Brown began to cause major problems for the visitors.
Fyfe’s superb finish across Tyrone keeper Niall Morgan pushed on Australia’s lead to 41-30, with the advantage extended to 50-35 by the end of the third quarter.
Three consecutive Irish overs reduced Australia’s advantage to 51-44 before Schuey palmed in the hosts’ second goal after the visitors had failed to deal with a long ball into their defence.
Ireland kept the Australian lead within manageable proportions with the Second Test in mind but Kernan’s squad may need reinforcements to give themselves a realistic chance next weekend.
However, McManus insisted after the game that Ireland “can claw back” the Australian advantage.
“It is a big lead but on the other hand it is just three overs and we are back in the game,” McManus told RTE.