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Conor McManus Masterclass Keeps Ireland In The Series Against Australia

Conor McManus Masterclass Keeps Ireland In The Series Against Australia
By PJ Browne Updated

At the final hooter in Adelaide, it was a strange cocktail of relief and regret for Ireland. Relief to only lose the opening test by ten points but regret at the opportunities which were wasted.

Australia won the first test 63 - 53 at the Adelaide Oval. As the series is decided on the aggregate score of the two games, Ireland's goose is not yet cooked. Though, in the 33 degree heat, Australia gave it a good go, especially in the third quarter.

The Aussies stretched their lead from a single point at the half to 15 at the end of the third. It was a strong final quarter from Ireland which kept Joe Kernan's side in touch.

Conor McManus - also vice-captain - was Ireland's best player in the game. Though, Michael Murphy was not far behind. McManus scored seven overs - 25 points in all - a remarkable performance from the Monaghan man.

His highlight score came early in the fourth quarter when Ireland needed it most.

Michael Murphy contributed 20 points to the Irish cause, that included a second quarter goal - Ireland's only of the game - along with four overs.

Murphy's goal came via a calm finish and some swift Irish play. Shane Walsh found Pearce Hanley with an excellent pass and the Mayo man quickly hand-passed it on to Murphy.

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Some bad news came following the game, Hanley has a suspected broken hand. If unavailable for the second test, Zach Tuohy will be the only remaining AFL player in Joe Kernan's squad.

Ireland's reign in the final quarter ascendancy was cut short after nine minutes. The ball bounced just outside Niall Morgan's box and Luke Shuey palmed it to the net. It was Australia's second goal of the game.

Australia outscoring Ireland not just overall but also in terms of six-pointers will have been a worrying occurrence for Kernan. It's an aspect of the game where Ireland have traditionally dominated.

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Several goal chances were left abegging by Ireland. There seemed to be a panic in the demeanour of some usually calm players when a goal chance presented itself - the looming possibility of a tackle from behind was a constant worry.

Nat Fyfe scored the Aussies' first goal during that ominous third quarter.

The lack of goals is not the only problem which Kernan must address. There was also a real lack of the spread in the Irish scorers. Just six players got themselves on the scoresheet. McManus and Murphy scored 45 of Ireland's 53-point total.

Still, with just a ten-point deficit to overcome in Perth on Saturday, there remains a real chance of Ireland retaining the Cormac McAnallen Cup.

Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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