Sunday, October 31, 2010

Scotland Make Their Point-Just

Scotland notched up a superb away victory at Croke Park in the first leg of the mixed code International series but manager Drew MacNeil will know that in the circumstances the men in blue should have made their definite spell of second half dominance count for more on the scoreboard.
Still he may well reflect that the outcome might have actually been radically different had Ireland continued to perform in the manner they began the match for the Scots were 4 points behind within the first four minutes thanks an opportunist point from Antrim’s Niall MacManus and then a well taken goal from Ireland first half star Shane Dooley.
Indeed for most of that early spell it was the pacy Dooley who ran the show and his powerful running down the left created some consternation in the Scotland defence though an early point from open play by Niall Macphee helped to settle the visitors’ nerves and bring Scotland back into the game.
A free hit off the deck for an Irish infringement saw Ronald Ross lift two points but three further points from Dooley seemed to confirm Irish dominance especially after Scotland skipper Gary Innes had to leave the field for treatment after a nasty face knock.
Mid way through the half the Scots began to get their act together and a ferocious drive from Ronald Ross was blocked by Irish keeper Paul Darmody but a two pointer from Scotland’s John Macdonald reduced the deficit as did a neat single from Lochaber’s Shaun Nicholson when he pounced on a loose ball to fire it over for a point.
Innes returned to the fray with his nose in plaster and his influence combined with that of Finlay Macrae changed the fortunes of the visitors. First Macrae popped over a single and then in 31 minutes, after Ross had won the ball out to the left in a tussle with keeper Darmody, Macrae was on hand to help himself to a goal with a low drive. Before the growing crowd had time to settle Innes had scored a second with a drive from distance which eluded the Irish defence.
The Irish had been keeping up the pressure at the other end but thanks to good stops from keeper Stuart Mackintosh Scotland went in at half time two points up with , despite Dooley helping himself to two singles then a double after a fine Mackintosh save yielded a corner and the Offaly star popped over the dead ball . Just before the break the irrepressible Dooley pinched a second goal when Mackintosh left his goal line unguarded to deal with a threat from the right. The ball was flipped into the centre and the star from Offaly was there to knock it into the net with Mackintosh scrambling back to cover.
The second half saw the Scots continue to dominate as MacNeil’s half time talk persuaded his players to play the shinty way by retaining the ball on the ground. John Macdonald and Ronald Ross began to combine well on the wing while Kinlochshiel’s Finlay Macrae caught the eye with his close control. This running game put the Irish midfield and front line defenders under pressure and the resulting infringements saw a double being popped over from Ronald Ross, and two doubles from Gary Innes to give the blues a clear lead.
It could have been greater but for the excellence of Darmody in goal and sterling work by Kilkenny’s Tommy Walsh and Jacky Tyrrell who strove manfully to stem the blue tide. The Scots however too often wasted their chances and were inclined to settle for shots from distance, many of which flew wide or were easily cleaned up by keeper Darmody. Meanwhile MacManus (3), Cork’s Partick Horgan (2) and a single from Barry MacFall nipped away at Scotland’s lead though the strength of Glen’s John Barr and Newtonmore’s Norman Campbell did much to keep the stars of the GAA at bay.
A single from John Macdonald and a final double from Finlay Macrae who had an outstanding match seemed to leave Scotland in easy street but two late points from Horgan and a final single from John Rowney of Laois made it a nervous last 5 minutes for the Scottish contingent.
In the end they held on to their slender lead to record a memorable win at the home of the GAA. The only problem is that they now have to do the whole thing over again at Inverness on 13th November. This time let’s hope they remember to play shinty.

Given that Neil Paterson was either not at the game or has not sent over a pic the only illustration to hand is that of John Barr, Manager Drew MacNeil and Neil Macphee rolling out the barrel. There is some “slagging” mileage to be made out of the fact that the young guys are clearly too cool to tie their laces- but after such a glorious victory that would be uncharitable. Enjoy the feeling of supremacy for the next fortnight.

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