Saturday 1 October 2016

Kernan's side preparing for 'toughest test ever' on huge day for series

Michael Verney

Published 21/11/2015 | 02:30

Ireland manager Joe Kernan: 'To play is great, to manage is greater because the satisfaction watching your players fulfil their potential and go up the steps is 100pc'
Ireland manager Joe Kernan: 'To play is great, to manage is greater because the satisfaction watching your players fulfil their potential and go up the steps is 100pc'

For most there is no thrill like playing competitive sport, but for Joe Kernan, management brings even more satisfaction.

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Despite three Ulster titles and two All-Stars during his Armagh career, the joy of watching a plan unfold on the sideline is unparalleled for the Irish International Rules boss.

"To play is great, to manage is greater because the satisfaction watching your players fulfil their potential and go up the steps is 100pc," Kernan said.

"It will be the same if we perform to those high levels today. We have to work harder than the Australians to win today and all we want is for the players to take the handcuffs off."

With the 95th anniversary of Bloody Sunday to be honoured in a special Croke Park ceremony before tonight's game, it promises to be an "historic occasion".

Kernan has an obvious passion for the hybrid game but he knows that his side must produce a phenomenal performance to beat a talent-laden Australian side, and keep the fans on the edge of their seats.

"This game is going 30 years but this is going to be the toughest test ever. It's going to be the toughest man-to-man, end-to-end game," he said.

"I hope that we perform to the best of our ability and we know the Australians, being professional, that when they come in they go to war.

"You're playing with the best players in your own association - against the best from another country. It's up to us to produce the goods today to make sure that we get bigger crowds back again.

Competitive

"If we get it competitive I always think there will be a chance people will want to see it. What we are doing is selling it for the next few years. It's our job to make this a long-term thing.

"It's up to both sets of players to go out and perform at a high level. This competition is hopefully only really starting off."

Rival coach Alastair Clarkson echoed his sentiments and believes a strong All-Australian travelling party shows their intent to ensure a healthy future for the game.

"We're really keen to put on a spectacle to the world. Our code has made a commitment in the last two years, which has come right from the top of the AFL.

"We want to bring the very best of our game to this Irish series and if the best players are available to play, they play."

Kernan, 61, is trying to re-establish the old principles of "catch and kick" in an attacking style, which can prevent the Australians blowing them out of the water like 12 months ago.

Captain Bernard Brogan, fresh from capturing his third All-Ireland medal, loves the concept and backs the possibility of the 'mark' coming into Gaelic football.

"I think it's a great rule. It creates a lot of scoring opportunities," he said.

"It creates a lot of pace and energy in the game. It'll be interesting to see how the college trialling goes."

Irish Independent

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