Contributed by: Peter Parry
Australia dusted up the Irish in more ways than one with a second emphatic victory in the second and final Test of the 2005 series in Melbourne. After a fabulous display of fast skillful International Rules football in Perth, the second Test was marred by a melee and plenty of scuffles after Australian and Brisbane Lions player, Chris Johnson, delivered a "coat hanger" tackle on Irish and Tyrone player Philip Jordan.
In what was effectively a "dead rubber" after Australia won the first Test by 36 pts, a near capacity crowd of 45,000 filled the Telstra Dome, reflecting the popularity of these games is still there. Similarly the second Test in Dublin in 2004 saw a crowd of 60,000 for another dead rubber after Ireland had won the first Test last year by 36 pts also.
Nonetheless the big wins to Australia and the reversion to rough stuff against the Irish who, as amateur sportsmen from a lesser body contact sport, have to return hale and hearty to employment the next week, again throws some doubt on the future of the series.
Yet this shouldn't take away from the coaching efforts of Kevin Sheedy. The crafty old Essendon coach, whose surname reflects his Irish ancestory, has raised the bar with preparation for the hybrid series. Australia's aggregate winning margin for the 2 Test series of 57 breaks last year's record 50 point margin in favour of the Irish in Dublin.
There's been talk reported from the Irish camp, and advice from dual code player and Brownlow medallist Jim Stynes, of the need for Ireland to get some Aussie expertise in the coaching panel. As the hybrid code evolves it seems each side comes out with better skills and tactics, as the Irish did in 2004 and the Aussies this year. But the ball is squarely in Ireland's court for 2006. The future of the series in its current incarnation depends on what they can do.
As for the future of the hybrid code itself, as stories on WFN have shown, it probably will always have a place as Gaelic Football and Australian Football clubs continue their steady growth around the world and teams look for the cultural and sporting variety that International rules matches provide.
For The Record:
First Test: Australia 2. 27. 7 (100) def Ireland 3. 11. 13 (64)
Subiaco Oval attendance: 39,098
Second Test: Australia 0. 18. 9 (63) def Ireland 0. 11. 9 (42)
Telstra Dome attendance: 45,428
World Footy News