It was a tough wet affair at McAlister Oval as the Irish Warriors narrowly defeated a physical Papua New Guinea side. The reigning champion and tournament favourite Mosquitoes, were confronted with a fiery Warriors side intent on making the champions earn every possession.
From the opening bounce till the end of the first quarter it seemed the Irish had all the answers as they dominated the key contests with their talls. Big Padraig Lucey seemed an impossible matchup as his strong leading and safe hands resulted in three of four early goals. But by the end of the half Papua New Guinea had kicked in front as they took advantage of a period of improvement in the weather and found space out wide to kick four unanswered goals of their own. Some silky run and carry combinations from Papua New Guinea seemed ominous entering the half.
A passionate address from coach Brian Currane at half time and a renewed sense of urgency got them back in the game and helped them to within 2 by the third quarter break. The strong mindset and resilience of the Warriors was evident as they immediately hit the scoreboard with 4 behinds. It is clear that the Warriors are resolved to win the title and understand they will need to beat PNG to do it. They looked to focus on matching the physicality of a strong PNG side and were courageous in the contests in round one.
The battle in the midfield was bruising as Sydney based duo of Patrick Brennan and Brendan Browne worked tirelessly alongside a vocal captain in David McElhone, to swing the momentum and move the ball quickly to nullify the impact of a dangerous PNG midfield. In what was probably a battle between the best midfields in the competition, tackle pressure was a major focus for both sides. Paul O’Halloran was dominant in the ruck and Papua New Guinea struggled to find an answer throughout the game.
The relentless efforts of Shane O’Sullivan in defence and a finesse forty metre goal off the ground from Ronan Cull with 7 minutes to go, may have been the difference in what was an evenly matched game.
In the post game Brian Currane stated that the win “definitely gives them a lot of momentum moving toward their next games” and “gives them a lot of confidence”. With further blockbuster matches on the horizon, momentum will indeed be key as the Warriors look to secure wins against an improving French side before tough matchups against strong New Zealand and Great Britain sides.
The Warriors have three well earned days to recover and bounce back for their second round fixture against the emerging French Coqs side. Warrior Darragh Leonard was the only injury, sustaining a leg injury in the second half and will now sweat on the results from scans tomorrow.
The game against France will be played at St Patricks College in Ballarat at 12:30pm on the 9th of August. This game is part of the schools round and also promises to be a great game. Come down and show your support as two of Europe’s best teams do battle.
Irish Warriors: 6.5 (41)
Papua New Guinea Mosquitoes: 4.5 (30)
Irish Warriors: Padraig Lucey 3, Patrick Brennan, Robert McElhone, Ronan Cull
Irish Warriors: Brendan Browne, Patrick Brennan, Paul O’Halloran, Shane O’Sullivan, Padraig Lucey Papua New Guinea Mosquitoes: Jeconiah Peni, Amua Muzza Pirika, Gideon Simon, John Ikupu