Wednesday 17 January 2018

Begley unfazed by hosts' threat to get physical

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

AUSTRALIA'S promise to 'get physical' in the second International Rules Test on Friday won't faze the Irish squad, who were anticipating that reaction after inflicting a humiliating defeat on the hosts in the opener.

Colm Begley said that the tourists would have been surprised if Australia weren't talking about bringing a more physical dimension to their approach in the Gold Coast showdown.

"I'm expecting them to come out and give us every bit of it," he said. "Australia is a proud nation and this team is very hurt. It will be a lot tougher and hard-hitting. They'll try and bully us. They'll run the ball same as always but will do it more aggressively."

The Laois man -- who spent three years in the AFL with Brisbane Lions and St Kilda before returning home in 2009 -- insists that Ireland will be ready for whatever the Australians throw at them.

However, he has concerns about the long-term future of the series, which continues to come under pressure from various quarters in Ireland.

"I don't know if we have the pull from all directions to keep it going," he said.

"It's a pity because it's a great game. I've seen a few comments on Twitter and a few people writing things back home.

"Some Irish journalists are putting it down, saying it's not really an Irish team and it's not an Irish game. But you ask sports people if they want to play for their country in any sport and they'll jump at the chance.

"If the critics could see the passion on the lads' faces in the team huddle after the first and third quarters or in the dressing-room at half-time last Friday, then they'd believe it. We've played our hearts out and that's good enough for me."

Despite having spent three years in the AFL, he felt no pangs of regret about leaving Australia when he ran out into Etihad Stadium last Friday.

However, he keeps a close watch on how the Irish players are doing in the AFL and predicts that Tommy Walsh's move from St Kilda to Sydney Swans will prove hugely successful.

"Last Friday, Tommy showed St Kilda what they will be missing. He'll do very well with Sydney," said Begley.

With several of the Irish squad either current or former AFL players, they are well placed to read the mood of the opposition during a game, which Begley believes is a big help.

"It has made it easier to know the Australians -- their strengths, their weaknesses and the game itself. Some of us have experience on that front and we've passed it onto the other lads," he said.

Losing twice to Australia at home last October was a chastening experience for the Irish team and gave them an added incentive to regain the initiative this year.

They put the pressure on themselves, harnessing it in a positive manner which helped produce an excellent performance last Friday.

"We were very disappointed last year. We had prepared well for it but didn't perform on the nights. It was a lot different last Friday and we're determined to keep it going next Friday," said Begley.

Irish Independent

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