Dour struggle suits Irish Warriors

Tuesday, September 02 2008 @ 10:15 am ACST

Contributed by: Brett Northey

In one of Round 3's crucial matches for determining who would go through to the semi-finals of the International Cup, Ireland's Warriors jumped Canada early and steadfastly hung on for the rest of the match in an impressive display of defensive football.

The Monday match started at 11am and the Northwind kicked into the northerly wind blowing pretty strongly to the south end of the ground in the first quarter. The Canadians have looked impressive so far and this was their chance to step up into the top four. But Ireland had most of the play early and looked much more intense. They peppered the goals, racking up a healthy first quarter score of 2.2 (14) and holding the Canadians to nothing, before a crowd of perhaps 200, with school children arriving and cars starting to surround the oval in traditional country style.

The Canadian forward line has looked good, with young Scott Fleming and the more senior Chris Cunning providing plenty of options. But the Ireland defence blanketed them and their midfield limited supply. Under pressure the Irish lads made the right decision more often and had set themselves up by the first change. Ireland's Ray Saurin according to the Record was fired up and involved in several incidents throughout the game and AFL officials were close to sending him to the tribunal but a quick video review saw him escape sanction, just.

Canada lifted in the second quarter and gave themselves a chance of victory. Just one goal to Ireland against two straight to the Northwind meant this game was going to live up to expectations. Firstly the Irish kicked a crucial goal against the wind, with Liam O'Connor kicking nicely on the run. But Canada struck back with a series of free kicks - fair decisions but costly for the Warriors. Canada's Toronto Eagle Oliver Hayward kicked truly, then Scott Fleming also goaled with a nice long kick, from a holding on decision. Unlike his last match he kicked earlier in his approach, not getting so close to the man on the mark. Strongly built Emmanuel Matata was competitive in the ruck against the taller Brian "Stretch" O'Connell, giving the Northwind a chance around the packs and Canada were now looking the cleaner, more dangerous side.

Conditions remained windy but Reid Oval seems to be better sheltered than the higher grounds. The rain had mostly held off but windy conditions are a footballer's worst situation and high marking and long ball use was never going to happen.

The eight point half-time margin would be extended by just the one goal, and there was a feeling the Canadians would ride the wind home in the last to make the International Cup semi-finals for the first time. Ireland did their best to shut the game down, defending grimly with extra numbers back. Flooding is ugly football but it's difficult to think of a team that wouldn't employ it in such a situation. Perhaps too predictably Canada kept sending the ball to Fleming, and although a promising talent he's not yet in the class that he can out-mark multiple opponents. The workload also showed on the 18 year old, as his second-efforts started to drop off and his dangerous crumbing skills diminished.

Filling the hole inside 50m meant Canada had to be smarter bringing the ball in, but under pressure and with the clock slowly ticking down it became obvious the men from the Emerald Isle were not going to surrender their lead in difficult conditions. Players tired and the final minutes saw little forward action.

Once again the Irish had proved too gutsy in tight conditions, securing a 16 point win. Canada looked on top for large periods and can be proud of their efforts. With juniors coming through in Vancouver and a strong Ontario league they can look forward to even better performances in the next few years, but for now they are consigned to the placement finals, and their first round finals match is Japan. The Irish face some difficulties growing their league, so all the more reason to enjoy their wins, though they next face the mighty challenge of New Zealand in a Thursday semi-final. Sadly they will be without Adam Jacobs. The tall Canadian from the Etobicoke Kangaroos appears to have ruptured his ACL and will most likely require surgery when he returns home - very best wishes for a full recovery.

Ireland
Goal Kickers: S. Fallon, C. Keegan, P. Gibbs, J. Flavin
Best Players: M. Finn, I. O''Sullivan, C. Quigley, S. Fallon, D. Ohaodhagain, P. Gibbs
Canada
Goal Kickers: O. Hayward, S. Fleming
Best Players: A. Gareth, E. Matata, A. Falcioni, M. Lowden, D. McLlravey, O. Hayward

IrelandCanada
2.2 (14)1/40.0 (0)
3.2 (20)1/22.0 (12)
4.3 (27)3/42.1 (13)
4.6 (30)Full2.2 (14)



Grey skies over coastal Warrnambool


The Irish (near) and Canadian (far) benches look on


After the final siren


Sadly Canada's Adam Jacobs appears to have ruptured his ACL and will most likely need a knee reconstruction

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