McDonnell looking to end international career on high
WHETHER or not the International Rules series has a future remains to be seen but, even if does, a familiar figure will be missing from the Irish squad when the Australians come to Ireland in 2013.
Tomorrow's second Test in Gold Coast will mark the end of Steven McDonnell's eight-year international career, during which he became the top scorer the hybrid game. He took his total to 109 points last Friday after scoring 18 points and with more rich pickings likely to be available in the Metricon Stadium tomorrow he's set to declare a final innings of over 120 points from 11 Tests.
However, at the age of 32, he believes it's time to step away from what has been a great adventure.
"Sure, it will be sad pulling on the Irish jersey for the last time but I'm proud and privileged to have had the opportunity to wear it so often," he said.
"What's important for me now is that we win the game and the series -- it would be great to go out on a high."
He started on a high too, kicking four 'overs' in his debut in Perth in 2003 and while Ireland lost on a two-game aggregate (101-94), he went on to enjoy series wins in '04 and '08. And with Ireland taking a 44-point advantage into tomorrow's second Test, he's assured of a third series success.
His consistency as a ball-winner, finisher and general all-round attacking enforcer earned him the captaincy last year but Ireland functioned poorly for long periods, losing both Tests.
It left him -- and his colleagues -- deeply frustrated but utterly determined to get it right this year. The captaincy moved on to Stephen Cluxton, but McDonnell remained a central figure and turned in another excellent performance last week.
"Performance-wise, it was up there as one of the best from Ireland. We won the first Test in '04 by a big margin (36 points) but this was even better. We got all the basics right, kickpassing, moving the ball at speed and taking our chances. We fell down on the scoring end last year, kicking a lot of one-pointers when we should have had 'overs'," he said
The Irish camp worked very hard to correct the mistakes of last year and the improvement was very much in evidence last week, albeit against a sloppy Australian team.
Despite the poor showing by the Australians, McDonnell (pictured right) is convinced that it has nothing to do with a lack of ambition or desire. Certainly, he didn't detect any sense of apathy when the teams got together for a meal last week.
"They were well pumped up. I know there's been a lot of talk that the Australians didn't pick their strongest team, their All Star selection if you like. But only three of this year's All Stars are on our team. By no means would you say we have a weakened team because of that.
"You've got to choose players who are suited to this game. It's not Gaelic football and it's not Australian Rules -- it's a mix of both and the best players in either code are not always suited to it," he said.
While McDonnell's days as an international player will end tomorrow, he's hoping that the series will not only continue in the short term but goes on to prosper as a permanent arrangement.
"Losing the opportunity for players to represent their country would be terrible. I have been involved in six series and every time I pulled on the Irish jersey, I felt very proud. If you ask any of the players who made their debut the other night how they felt when they lined up for the national anthem, they'd say it was in their top list of achievements. I still feel it has a good future," he said.
And McDonnell intends to bow out in the best possible way by making sure Ireland win the second Test and regain the Cormac McAnallen Cup in comprehensive fashion.