Thursday 23 March 2017

Fit-again Coulter raring to make his mark in Croker Test

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

DOWN star Benny Coulter has confirmed his availability for Saturday's second International Rules Test. Coulter will link up with the rest of the squad in Maynooth this evening as they recommence preparations for the Croke Park clash.

Coulter missed the first Test with a hamstring injury but was with the squad in Limerick until Saturday morning when he returned home to Mayobridge.

"The first Test just came a day or two too early for me. I was borderline," he said. "I did the training in Limerick but then I left. I'm available if the management want me. I'll be fine."

The management met yesterday to consider potential changes in the squad now that Coulter and Michael Shields, who opted out of the first Test to concentrate on his club St Finbarr's Cork county final last Sunday, are available again.

Coulter, an experienced International Rules campaigner, has stressed the need for the Irish to go for goals. "The win is not beyond us. It's only seven points. There are goals in us if we are ambitious enough to go for them," he said.

Meanwhile, Australian assistant coach Matthew Lappin believes Ireland struggled with the interchange system during Saturday's first Test. Lappin told Australian media covering the tour that liberal use of the interchange meant that Martin Clarke was "stranded" on the bench for much of the second quarter.

Lappin also feels the Irish management set their team out negatively and can see a much more fired-up Irish team emerging on Saturday night at Croke Park.

"If we were coaching them, we'd definitely change things up," Lappin said. "They have been stung a little bit by their local media so I expect those players to fire up. They didn't perform great but I think our pressure and the way we played didn't allow them to."

On the interchange, Lappin clearly felt Australia had the advantage in how best they deployed and rested their key players throughout.

"They only used four in the opening quarter and in the second quarter had used up their quota, which left Irish star and former Collingwood player Marty Clarke stranded on the bench."

Unlike the Irish management, Lappin felt there wasn't on over-emphasis on playing the ball on the ground soccer-style by the home side.

"I didn't think they used it that much to be honest," he said. "I thought the last time in Melbourne (2008) when it rained that they used it more. There were patches in the game when they used it, but I didn't think they overdid it.

"It's a strength of theirs, but there were other things that I thought could have been done better rather than their soccer skills."

The GAA said in a statement last night that only "a handful" of tickets for the lower tiers of stands remain for Saturday night's second Test. It also announced that group-pass tickets for clubs and schools are close to selling out and applications will close this evening.

"Following the exciting finish to the opening Test on Saturday night, ticket sales remain strong for all areas of the stadium for this weekend's rematch," the statement read.

Family tickets are available with '16s and under' tickets priced at €5 and adults at €25.

Irish Independent

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