Sunday, August 17 2014 @ 12:00 am ACST
Contributed by: Troy Thompson
After a pleasant Saturday afternoon drive and a coffee next to the busy Irish pub in downtown Bendigo I made my way over the QEO. Maybe I should go in and tell them the real Irish show was up the road I thought? I have driven past the QEO hundreds of times in my life on my way to/from Melbourne but never watched a game there.
I watched the end of the Bendigo Football League match where hosts South Bendigo went down to Castlemaine. Before the end of the third quarter I wandered through the Nauru change room under the old grandstand (the word grand is right there in the title and here it is apt). They were in various stages of preparation, more than an hour out from their match. The pump up music was going. And already the balls were being flipped around by hand, and the tackle pads were out with Chiefs players receiving the ball and cannoning into the pads.
I wandered over to the social club rooms where most of the Irish boys were congregated. They were all looking pretty relaxed and not ready to get changed yet, watching the BFL match with not much more than a passing interest. After a while they started to filter out across the visitors change rooms. Contrasting preparations to be sure.
The final siren sounded as the Castlemaine team took the four points. As they left the ground they mingled with the Irish who had formed a guard to see them off and all posed together for a photo. Nauru and Ireland had a good twenty minutes of warmup as the sun headed down towards the west horizon. The lights had been turned on already towards the end of the previous match.
The teams assembled for national anthems, as flags of both teams were waved by supporters who had clearly come to see these two teams play. There was a little confusion after the anthem as the Irish walked away. It looked like Nauru was going to perform their war dance – but as the Irish returned it seems they had second thoughts.
As the teams went to position, now almost dark and the lights coming into effect I headed over towards the commentary box. The commentary team from the BFL team were still packing up so off I went without the team lists. The weather after a fine afternoon was cool probably around 10 degrees but quite still and perfect for footy. The ground although clearly heavily used was in very good condition.
Nauru was quick out the blocks. Two quick goals in the first minute. This looked ominous. Only recently hearing the results of some of the other matches from today (South Africa’s win over PNG in particular) my mind raced to the possibilities of a fairy tale upset. As Ireland looked to respond they could only kick behinds. Four of them. It all looked to be coming true. I moved up into the commentary box and the view was better and reality was restored as Ireland kicked two straight ones to go into quarter time with a four point lead.
Muiris Bartley for Ireland came from the ground during the match after a heavy collision. This followed a heavy knock in the first match of the tournament against Fiji. He had been playing well to that stage of the game. I spoke to him after the game and he said he was fine (and he looked to be that).
Just to prove that the first quarter start was no mistake Nauru burst out of the blocks yet again putting the first on the board. Ireland started to look like taking control though. Mick Finn was playing loose behind the play across half back and cutting off most of the Nauru pushes forward. Ireland added three goals for the quarter with Padraig Lucey looking very dangerous, the size mismatch was obvious but his confidence in grabbing the ball became more apparent at each contest. Oppenheimer was able to kick a late one to keep Nauru in touch, the margin 10 points as the teams went to the change rooms at half time to make way for the Auskick kids.
In the third quarter the game turned back Nauru’s way. Lucey went into the ruck for Ireland and Paul O’Halloran went forward. For some reason this didn’t seem to work out so well. Lucey was dominating the ruck the same way that O’Halloran did in his battle with Teabuge and Charles Dagiaro (who both outjumped the Irish on most occaisions but regularly missed the tap). But up forward they could only add one goal. Perhaps some of the difference was that Nauru had worked out not to kick the ball out of defence without looking and gave themselves a decent chance at getting to a position where they could be shooting for goal. Yoshi Harris and Tiana Waidubu across the backline and the hard work of Lennox Agege and German Grundler also helped to turn things around. The ground was abuzz at three quarter time as the Chiefs had pegged the Irish lead back to just three points.
The final quarter started disasterously for me as the streaming broadcast equipment failed to start. After a reboot I was back up and running. Was this going to be it for the reigning IC champions?
Maybe Ireland had a reboot at three quarter time. Because they really turned it on. John O’Reagan goaled to steady things for Ireland. Padraig Lucey went back to full forward and became the difference with long accurate kicks finishing with five goals for the match. Coach David Stynes lead from the front and Geraghty, McCluskey, McSorley and Fanning all contributed heavily to Ireland’s dominance as they added four for the quarter to win by 27 points.
Nauru battled hard at the packs for the ball, tackled fiercely and ran hard in numbers all game but in the end it was the dominance of Ireland’s big men that did them in.
The Irish sang their song on the ground and in the rooms the clubs were thanked by the South Bendigo Football club President and invited to the social rooms for post-match socialising.
I jumped in my ute and headed back to the big smoke.
Ireland: 2.4 5.5 6.5 10.6 (66)
Nauru: 2.0 4.1 6.2 6.3 (39)
Ireland: Luce 5, Johnston, Stynes, O’Regan, McCluskey, Finn
Nauru: Kenneth 2, Donatello 2, Snuka Tipung
Ireland: Lucey, Healy, Finn, Fanning, O’Halloran, Stynes
Nauru: Tiana, German, Lennox, Donatello, Dave, Kenneth