Scotland manager Garry Reid was left disappointed, yet encouraged following his side’s 22-14 defeat to Ireland in the shinty/hurling international at Páirc Esler, Newry.
Moments after the final whistle, Reid said: “I’m actually very disappointed with the final scoreline as I thought we were right in it until the closing stages, but you have to take your chances in these games, and we were wasteful in front of goals at times.
“Ireland were deadly and the inclusion of so many top-tier players meant they had the quality to punish any mistakes we made.
“It can be soul destroying for our defenders to see balls from distance sail over their heads and between the posts when they can do nothing about it.
“It’s small margins, too, as I thought they took advantage of a couple of soft frees and it was only late in the game that they pulled away when our heads dropped a bit.”
The Scots scored the game’s only two goals and there were positives to take, as Reid added: “I thought Blair Morrison was outstanding and Finlay MacRae, winning his 20th cap, was a steady influence throughout, whilst Stuart MacDonald’s save from Peter Duggan had to be seen to be believed.
“Don’t forget we blooded 11 new caps and they all coped well.
“Overall, we lacked a bit of composure at times, and we must always remember to play our game, because it is frantic out there and you can easily get caught up in it all.
“I think Saturday leaves the international in a good place and I’d really like to see Ireland take an equally strong squad to Scotland next year, as it would certainly add to the occasion.”
Ireland skipper Neil McManus plays captain’s role in win
It was the first international for four years and key to Ireland’s success was their ability to continually send the ball between the posts from distance.
Doubles from Antrim’s Neil McManus and Galway’s Thomas Monaghan were only punctured by Kevin Bartlett’s point as the hosts accumulated a 4-1 lead.
The Scots fought back ,and with Iain Robinson and captain Roddy Macdonald in the mix, Bartlett found a space outside the box to drive the ball low into the corner of the goal, to the keeper’s right, to level the contest.
Undeterred, Ireland continued to add points and Cork’s Ger Millerick twice, McManus again, Clare’s Peter Duggan and Offaly’s Eoghan Cahill built up a 9-6 interval lead, with another Bartlett point and Iain Robinson increasing Scotland’s tally.
Scotland’s strong start to the second half failed to produce a score and it took a fabulous flying Stuart MacDonald save to deny Duggan before McManus put the resultant 65 between the posts.
Play flowed from end-to-end as three more McManus points were countered by Bartlett, Scott Macdonald and Steven Macdonald and Ireland now led 13-9.
However, when Blair Morrison played the ball out of defence, James Falconer’s shot was blocked, but his Kingussie team-mate Ruaridh Anderson calmly stroked the rebound high into the net on his left side to cut Ireland’s lead to 13-12.
The Irish went on to restore their advantage for a third time, though – and this time there was no Scotland comeback.
Stephen Maher added a solo point, McManus got four more, Cahill added to his earlier point with a treble and another Duggan strike, this time off the ground from the right, were only interrupted by another two Steven Macdonald scores as Ireland won 22-14.
McManus played a captain’s role, bagging more than half Ireland’s scores, and he was presented with the Mowi Quaich by Ulster GAA secretary, Brian McAvoy.
Scotland skipper Macdonald said: “It was difficult out there as the pitch was quite long, so it was hard to play the game on the ground.
“I thought we battled well, and on another day, we probably should have scored more goals.
“Fair play to Ireland, though, as they brought a strong side and were certainly up for it.”
It is hoped Ireland continue to select the increased number of top-tier players, and early agreement on next year’s fixture, and the return of the under-21 clash, would allow more selection and preparation time to help take the international to the next level.