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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 28 March, 2020

5 talking points as Ireland claim International Rules glory with victory over Australia

Joe Kernan’s men won 56-52 against the visitors at Croke Park.

1. Ireland regain the Cormac McAnallen Cup

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Victory for Ireland edges them ahead of Australia in the all-time International Rules roll of honour.

Ireland have now won ten series, one ahead of the Aussies, and the win sees the men in green now lead 21-17 in one-off Test matches.

Victory was secured on the back of an impressive first half display, as Ireland raced into a 20-point lead by half-time.

That was in direct contrast to last year’s Test in Perth, where Ireland were the ones playing catch-up after Australia made the early running.

Ireland visibly ran out of steam in the third and fourth quarters as Australia came on strong.

But Joe Kernan’s charges managed to cling on for victory on a poignant night at Croke Park, where a moment’s silence was observed before throw-in to mark the 95th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and to remember the Paris terror attack victims.

2. New life breathed into the series

Australia panel Australia brought a star-studded squad to Croke Park. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The strength of the opposing teams provided an indication of how seriously both countries took this one-off fixture.

Australia brought a host of All-Australian stars while Ireland included 9 Allstars in their squad.

The quality of the fare on show, and the passion displayed by captain Bernard Brogan on the victory podium, provided clear evidence that the hybrid game has received a badly-needed shot in the arm.

So much negative publicity surrounds this series and the attendance, 38,386, wasn’t hectic either.

But if we had a second Test next weekend, we would have looked forward to a much bigger crowd.

Australia will return home with a renewed vigour for the series and perhaps we’ll see two games Down Under next year.

3. So is it time to bring back a second Test?

Conor McManus scores their third goal with a penalty Conor McManus nets a first half penalty. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The wheel appears to have come full circle. Following calls for the abolition of the International Rules series in recent years, before the two-game annual event was cut to just one match, there appears to be a renewed appetite for two fixtures again.

Tonight’s scoreline would have set up a tantalising second Test and generated so much positive publicity ahead of the second match.

Behind the scenes, GAA officials and their AFL counterparts will now surely sit down and discuss the possibility of reviving the two-Test concept.

The violence that marred previous games appears to be a thing of the past and at no stage this evening did tempers threaten to boil over to any great degree.

It was scrappy and difficult to watch at times but there were passages of good play too, with Ireland’s mastery of the round ball helping to win the day on this occasion.

4. History in the making for Joe Kernan

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ireland boss Joe Kernan completed a rather unique set tonight.

As a manager, Kernan achieved great things with Crossmaglen Rangers, Armagh and Ulster.

Kernan guided Crossmaglen to three All-Ireland club crowns and of course, he was the mastermind behind Armagh’s 2002 All-Ireland SFC success.

Kernan is also an interprovincial winning manager with Ulster and victory at International Rules level completes the set.

The Crossmaglen native was appointed for a two-year period and will lead the Ireland team into battle Down Under in 2016.

Ireland haven’t won a series on Australian soil since 2008 – and Kernan will aim to end that particular famine.

5. The standout players

Aidan OÕShea celebrates scoring a goal Aidan O'Shea scored two goals (six-pointers) for Ireland. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Ireland enjoyed their best moments in the first half, with captain Bernard Brogan, Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and Conor McManus prominent.

Goalkeeper Niall Morgan pulled off a crucial save before half-time but the Aussies took over in the second half and whittled a 20-point lead down to three approaching the finish, before Bernard Brogan scored a crucial late behind.

Australia will rue a number of missed opportunities to score overs or three pointers, with scoreable efforts dragged wide for behinds, or one-point gains.

But Australia had a number of excellent performers on show, with Robbie Gray, Eddie Betts and Nick Riewoldt the pick of the bunch.

And at the ripe old age of 40, long-serving goalkeeper Dustin Fletcher waved goodbye to the International Rules and a glittering career.

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