Scotland 19 - 25 Ireland: Horgan stages a masterclass but Scots fight back
Scotland live to fight another day after two late goals kept their hopes of ending Ireland’s dominance of the Marine Harvest shinty/hurling international series alive.
Ireland finished yesterday’s contest at the Bught Park in Inverness with a 25-19 win and a fair chance of completing the work next Saturday in County Clare.
However, it could have been lights out for Scotland had the impressive Kevin Bartlett of Caberfeidh and the dependable Neil MacDonald of Lochaber not hit a five-point goal each in the dying moments.
Not only did it ensure Scotland will travel to Ireland next week with hope, it also brought a bonus point for two goals – something the Scots failed to get in the preceding 75 minutes.
Manager Drew McNeil rightly believes there could still be more twists to the narrative before the winners are finally garlanded next Saturday in Ennis.
“There were a lot of young players in there today and, in the first half, we maybe got a bit lost,” he said. “However, we finished stronger, had a much better second half and it is all to play for.
“Ireland were very good and they have a lot of great players but we will have learned from today and it is not over.”
There were hopes the new addition for 2012 – the five points for a goal rule – would help the Scots, whose weekly bread and butter is goals.
Nevertheless, it was the players in emerald green that developed an early eye for the net.
Patrick Horgan of Cork plays in the higher echelons of hurling and you could see why in the opening minutes as he made an indelible mark on this game.
He stabbed the first point over the uprights after just one minute then proceeded to tot up all of Ireland’s points in the first 11 minutes as the visitors set the standard.
Pick of the bunch was his five-point goal in two minutes. Juggling the ball on his outstretched hurley, he managed to squeeze round the Scottish defensive flank before nonchalantly flicking the ball over the head of keeper Stuart MacKintosh and tapping it in on the other side.
It was craft, guile and audacity and certainly set the Scots thinking. Horgan added a further three points with strikes over the crossbar with the Scots only managing to muster a two-point strike over the posts by Bartlett, a stand-out from 2011 at this venue.
At that stage, there was a hush over Bught Park and all the Scottish fans could do was admire Horgan’s artistry. Dominating everything, his next act was to breach the home defence on the right before drop-hitting a low effort into the net for a five-point goal.
It was Scotch on the rocks at this point and manager McNeil tinkered with the set-up.
Horgan added another two single strikes over the posts but Bartlett hit a two-pointer for Scotland and new cap Steven MacDonald of Newtonmore mimicked that with two himself. It was then 14-6 to the Irish before Horgan, of course, added another to make it 15-6 with half-time looming.
Shane Dooley added another point and, as the Scots re-emerged on to a sunny Bught Park surface, they were 16-6 down with much to consider.
McNeil returned captain Norman Campbell to a more customary position as defensive anchor and the difference was immediate.
A more cohesive Scotland enjoyed two points and a goal from Bartlett, a single strike from Niall MacPhee and MacDonald’s late goal.
Horgan refused to be upstaged, with a goal and a point, and Dooley and Neil McManus helped themselves to singles.
Game over, but not the series.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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