RONALD Ross’s senior Scotland side kept up their good run of form over recent years with a victory by 18 points to 15 over their Irish opponents in the cross-code shinty-hurling international at Inverness’s Bught Park.

However, it was Ireland who dominated the early exchanges of Saturday’s match with the tone being set when Tipperary’s John McGrath pounced to put his side a point ahead in the 4th minute. Caberfeidh’s Kevin Bartlett quickly equalised from a deflected sideline hit which brought up a single point but continual Irish pressure allowed them to creep ahead with singles from Conor Lehane, Andy O’Brien and Limerick’s David Reidy giving them a three point advantage by the 20 minute mark.

At last Scotland’s long hit specialist, Newtonmore’s Steven Macdonald, found his range and after having forced Irish keeper Enda Rowland to make a fine save from one attempt, he knocked over a two pointer to bring Scotland back into contention. Minutes later excellent play by Craig Mainland and Roddy Macdonald resulted in a side hit which Bartlett knocked over for a further two points, putting the Scots ahead for the first time in the match at 5-4.

Ireland continued to push forward, however, linking up well, but their carelessness with the final ball plus two excellent saves by Scotland keeper Stuart MacDonald from Laois man Ross King kept them at bay.

Finally, in the 36th minute, Scotland broke through to score a three point goal when a John Macrae strike bounced up off Rowland’s stick and was fired into the net by the inrushing Bartlett, though Scotland’s lead was cut to three after Wexford’s impressive Lee Chin was gifted a cheap point just before the break.

The second period showed Scotland’s lead to be anything but secure and after a bright opening in which Newtonmore’s Glen Mackintosh hit the post and Bartlett had an attempt well saved by Rowland, Ireland equalised via a single from Reidy and two points from McGrath before going three points ahead courtesy of two separate singles from Lehane and another from Chin.

Bartlett then clawed back two points for the Scots from the dead ball, though Chin immediately replied with a single. Eventually Bartlett brought the sides level at 12-12 when he popped the ball over for two points following an Irish foul.

The introduction up front of Kingussie’s Ryan Borthwick and Lovat’s Greg Matheson saw the game take a decisive swing in favour of the home side. First Kyles’ Roddy Macdonald pounced to score Scotland’s second goal when he knocked the ball home from close range following another rebound off Rowland. Scotland continued to push forward and after a single from captain Finlay Macrae, Bartlett, his country’s top scorer with a personal total of 12 points, fired over to make it 18-12.

There was, as always, a sting in the Irish tail. Conor Lehane again bagged a single but, after Macdonald had stunned the 1500 home fans with a fantastic aerial save which denied an Irish goal, Scotland hung on to win despite the loss of a final two pointer to a Ben Conroy strike which was the last hit of the game.

The win marks the fourth occasion in a row that Ross has steered his players to victory at Inverness but he was quick to admit that Willie Maher’s Irish squad gave his charges a difficult afternoon.

He said: “This was a match that could have easily gone either way. Perhaps we were fortunate that they missed some chances from open play but then we too missed a number of opportunities. In the end it was an exciting spectacle for both sets of fans and I’m just happy with the win.”