Tohill determined to match Aussies' physical approach
Published 01/04/2010 | 05:00
WITH Anthony Tohill officially confirmed as the GAA's International Rules team manager for the next two years, the Derry man has vowed that his side will be able to cope with the Australians' physical approach to the game.
Wicklow's Kevin O'Brien, Galway's Sean Og de Paor and Kerry legend Eoin 'Bomber' Liston were also named as Tohill's selectors for the Tests at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick on October 23 and at Croke Park on October 30.
And Tohill, who served as a selector under Sean Boylan in 2006 and '08, warned that players will have to be available for this year's home series if they want to be part of the squad that will tour Australia next year.
"We need our best players playing this game," he said. "Ultimately for us it's going to be about a two-year plan and we will be building towards Australia next year.
"It is easier for some players to go on the Australian trip. I am no fool, I know that from being a player myself, it is a bigger plus for them but players need to commit for both years if they are to be a part of this. There is no point pulling an injury on us this year and then hoping to get to Australia next year. That is not going to happen.
"Fundamentally, (we'll select) players who are bursting to play for their country. It does not matter where you are from, it does not matter what reputation you have in the game, if you are not bursting to put on that Irish jersey then you are no good to us. We need players who are fit, who are strong, who can take contact and can take contact in the right way and not react adversely to that."
The Swatragh man's appointment means that the most successful manager in the history of Gaelic football, Mick O'Dwyer, has once again been overlooked for the post and O'Brien, who is a part of the Kerry maestro's backroom team in Wicklow, consulted O'Dwyer before accepting the post.
"I put it to Micko and he knows my commitment to him and to Wicklow," the Baltinglass man said. "He's like a father, you go through him. If he had said 'no' and that he hadn't time to let me go I'd have said fine, but he was only positive and he wished me the best of luck. I came away from him and I accepted the job the next day and I was delighted."
O'Brien played in the 1990 series and was on standby for the '98 tour and accepts that, while the ugly scenes of '05 and '06 cannot be repeated, the physical aspect of the game must be kept to sustain interest among the general public.
"We have to have the physical aspect of it. Back in the day, it was tough. I remember Jim Stynes was full-forward and Bernard Flynn was in one corner and I was in the other and Jim was looking after the two babies either side of him. We had tremendous guys out there. It was tough and you had to be in the best condition of your life," he said.
"We had Martin Gavigan and Pat O'Byrne and a few big animals like them. There was a nice balance there. It wasn't dirty but it was tough and physical but, from a spectator's point, we have to have the crunching tackles and a little bit of physical stuff. If not, it won't please the crowd much."
Tohill also confirmed that the AFL-based Irish players like Tadhg Kennelly and Setanta O hAilpin would be considered for selection while Mike McGurn, who currently works with Armagh and was previously on the books of the IRFU, is on board as team trainer and will assist particularly with tackling, where Ireland have often struggled.
And O'Brien was keen to stress that players from outside the traditionally strong counties will be given due consideration.
"If you look back over the years, look at the service the likes of Noel Roche gave his country and Clare weren't dominating at the time or anything. There will always be two or three (players from weaker counties). We'll be throwing the net out wide," he said.
However, no decision has been made on whether a tour manager will be appointed.