Shinty/Hurling: Ireland 24 - 18 Scotland

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DREW McNeil believes Scotland’s hopes are still alive despite the 24-18 defeat to Ireland yesterday in leg one of the Shinty/Hurling International Series.

The Scots put up a spirited performance at Croke Park in a match that was much closer than in previous years.

The six-point gap, McNeil believes, is surmountable in Inverness next Saturday.

“When we played the ball on the ground, we did well and that’s what we will need to do again. I felt it was a very good performance but we lost some soft and costly goals.”

On a wet surface, the Irish started brighter and the first six minutes were worrying for Scotland.

Within those six minutes, the dark blues were 7-0 down as the home side displayed just how quickly and clinically they can turn defence to attack.

Cahir Healy of Laios had them ahead with a three-point goal after the Scottish backline failed to clear the danger and the greens pressed further ahead with another three pointer from Graeme Mulcahy.

When Neil MacManus of Antrim clipped the ball over the uprights, things were looking desperate for the visitors.

Still, they stuck to the task and slowly began to knit together elements of the game plan.

Keeping the ball on the floor and playing into the wide spaces of Croke Park, the Scots made gains.

In 11 minutes, Liam MacDonald of Kilmallie caught Irish keeper Brendan Rochford off his line and calmly found the net for a much needed three-point goal.

Scotland took heart and Kevin Bartlett struck a two-pointer over the posts.

Finlay MacRae was causing the Irish problems with his ground skills but the Scots missed a few gilt-edged chances before the Kinlochshiel man struck a three-point goal.

Suddenly, Scotland had awoken and were in the lead by a point but their audacity only riled Ireland.

Neil MacManus levelled things in 23 minutes with a point before the greens found an additional gear.

MacManus added a goal as did Jack Kavanagh and Eoin Price and Brendan Maher dinked points over the posts.

Kavanagh added another point before Liam MacDonald added to his tally for Scotland to make the score 17-9 to Ireland at the break.

Scotland were livelier in a second period which recorded no goals but plenty of hits over the uprights.

For Scotland, Kevin Bartlett, Sean Nicolson and Finlay MacRae all scored two point hits, with debutants John MacRae and Glen MacKintosh grabbing single strikes.

Steven MacDonald also scored a point in open play against an Irish side replete with big hitters.

They took points from Patrick Maher, Eoin Price, Dara O’Connell, the irrepressible MacManus, Gareth “Magic” Johnson, Mulcahy and Danny Cullen.

The series, however, is still very much in the melting pot.