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'Boozy' antics put heat on Australia


TRAILING tourists read riot act by AFL after revelations in Oz media.

 The Australian International Rules team has already made a bigger impact off the pitch than on it, leading to a stern dressing-down from AFL chiefs following a "drunken night out" in the mid-West.

The Aussies have been "reminded of their responsibilities" while a voluntary training session yesterday was upgraded to compulsory in the wake of their early-morning shenanigans, which led to hotel staff twice requesting the players to stop making noise.

The incident, widely reported in the Australian media, places yet another question mark over a flagging concept that increasingly appears on its last legs.

Australia's decision to send over an indigenous squad for this year's series may have been dressed up by the AFL as a novel way to revive the hybrid game, but the view from Ireland was far more jaundiced. This scepticism was merely confirmed by Australia's tepid 57-35 defeat in last Saturday night's first Test under the Breffni Park lights.

It leaves Australia with a virtually unbridgeable deficit and the GAA marketing gurus with an incredibly difficult 'sell' on their hands as they try to drum up spectator interest in Saturday night's second Test at Croke Park.

Against this backdrop comes news that the players who floundered in Cavan have been hauled over the coals following a raucous Sunday night that carried well into Monday morning.

According to The Age newspaper: "A drunken night out has ended with Australian players hauled before team management and reminded of their responsibilities to an International rules series in Ireland already hanging by a thread.

"Several players had a boozy Sunday night out at a nightclub in the town of Limerick, before retiring to a room of one of the players at the team's Dromoland Castle Hotel in Ennis in the early hours of Monday morning. Hotel staff asked the hard-partying players to turn down their music about 5am, before having to return 15 minutes later to again insist they desist from making noise. A vase was heard smashing, with others in the building woken up," the report claims.

The Melbourne-based media organ goes on to describe this as the "second straight night of heavy drinking" by the tourists, adding: "AFL deputy chief executive Gillon McLachlan, AFL operations manager Mark Evans and coach Michael O'Loughlin hauled the players into a team meeting after breakfast (yesterday), where they were told it was now time to refocus."

The story was also reported on by the official Aussie Rules website, www.afl.com.au, which revealed that a "voluntary training session had been scheduled for Monday afternoon but it has now been made compulsory for the whole team and is expected to be a solid two-hour session."

However, team coach O'Loughlin subsequently played down the furore, insisting he has been on previous Australian representative tours that involved a "lot more" drinking and that it was "about that bonding stuff".

"It's one of those things that you try and get the group together quickly as possible. You get them into those bonding sessions and what not, but it's been far from a holiday," O'Loughlin maintained, adding that the players realised it "absolutely is business" for the rest of the tour.



The commitment of Irish players to this strange sporting marriage has rarely been in doubt, and was underlined once more with their convincing victory on Saturday night.

However, Ireland boss Paul Earley may have to plan without Aidan O'Shea next Saturday because of another club-v-country clash. The midfield star will be trying to propel Breaffy to a first ever Mayo SFC title against neighbouring rivals Castlebar Mitchels the following afternoon.

At time of going to press there was still no definite word on whether O'Shea might attempt to reprise the double-jobbing heroics of Ireland captain Michael Murphy, who skippered his country last Saturday night before inspiring Glenswilly to the Donegal SFC summit less than 24 hours later.

However, given this is Breaffy's maiden county senior final, and also in light of Ireland's comprehensive 22-point lead entering the second Test, the indications from Mayo are that he will probably focus solely on his club this weekend.