Thursday 14 December 2017

Fletcher consigns violence to history

Australia captain Adam Goodes takes a penalty during International Rules training in Cork yesterday. Photo: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile
Australia captain Adam Goodes takes a penalty during International Rules training in Cork yesterday. Photo: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The last man to captain a touring Australian International Rules squad to Ireland has vowed that there will be no repeat of the violence which marred the 2006 Test at Croke Park.

Dustin Fletcher says the 2010 Australian squad is here to "enjoy ourselves and get a job done," without resorting to the heavy-handed tactics which overshadowed Croke Park four years ago.

The Aussies stepped up their training in Cork yesterday ahead of tonight's warm-up match in Pairc Ui Rinn, that has the added incentive of a promised appearance by Sean Og O hAilpin on a combined Cork universities team.

"We're going to keep the intensity up, but we're not going to go overboard," said Fletcher.

Fletcher believes the changes made in early 2008 during a summit meeting in Dubai between the two associations, was the correct route to take.


"Everyone has changed, we're here now to play footy, enjoy ourselves and do our best, play hard and hopefully get a result. People come here to watch footy and I suppose, the physical aspect is something that crowds also come to see," said Fletcher.

Fletcher will be Australian goalkeeper for the series -- arguably their most important position, given their unfamiliarity with the role.

"It's a bit daunting at the start, there are times when the ball is going to go in. You've just got to stay big and do your best, and the other part of it is kicking the ball out and getting rid of it from there. I'm as confident as I can be," he said. "The squad as a whole seems to be in good shape, with no late injury worries to report."

Meanwhile, Ireland manager Anthony Tohill has added Emmet Bolton to the squad to cover for Michael Shields, who is club-tied ahead of Sunday's Cork football final between St Finbarr's and Nemo Rangers. Shields has opted to preserve himself on Saturday night, due to his involvement in the game with St Finbarr's.

Bolton joins Niall McNamee, who comes into the 23-man squad in place of Benny Coulter, whose hamstring has not repaired quickly enough. Coulter is expected to be ready for the second Test in Dublin the following week.

The Irish vice-captain Finian Hanley can't understand why there's opposition to the International Rules within the GAA. Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is the most ardent critic, but Hanley -- a member of the 2008 Irish squad -- is convinced it gives players an outlet to think differently about their own game.

"If players and managers alike, and the GAA, want to go ahead with it, there's no reason why people should be giving out about it," he said.

"We talk about Gaelic footballers and burnout and Gaelic footballers going stale. This game is a small bit different and it gives footballers and players a chance to try something different.

"There's a different tackle and it takes footballers' minds off just playing Gaelic football, which they've been doing for 20 or 30 years of their lives."

"It's nice to break away and I'm sure if you asked any of the lads, they'd say it's nice to play a different game -- albeit not a whole lot different, but it's nice. It's just to mix it up a bit. Lads want to come up and put in the effort."

He added: "There were 50, 55 lads at the first trial. Even last week, lads that didn't make the final panel still wanted to be there and that shows the commitment and the desire to play for Ireland."

Hanley feels the Australians will be as committed to winning the series as ever, despite the physical straightjacket they'll be placed in once again to avoid a repeat of 2006.

"They're a confident nation and they're very proud Australian Rules footballers as well. They don't like to be beaten by amateurs. That's always the case.

"They don't want to be beaten by guys who are working in nine to five jobs and what not," he said.

"They're very proud. Even talking to them the last time, they don't like losing -- that's just the way they are. We're the same."

IRELAND (International Rules v Australia) -- S McDonnell (Armagh) (Capt), F Hanley (Galway) (Vice-capt), C Begley (Laois ), B Brogan (Dublin), G Canty (Cork), S Cavanagh (Tyrone ), M Clarke (Down), S Cluxton (Dublin), B Donaghy (Armagh), L Glynn (Wicklow), D Goulding (Cork), J Kavanagh (Kildare), P Keenan (Louth), T Kennelly (Kerry), S McDermott (Roscommon), C McKeever (Armagh), K McKernan (Down), B Murphy (Carlow), M Murphy (Donegal), K Reilly (Meath), T Walsh (Kerry), E Bolton(Kildare), N McNamee (Offaly).

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