O'Neill optimistic Rules series can continue beyond 2014
GAA president Liam O'Neill spoke with optimism that the International Rules series will survive beyond next year's Tests in Australia.
Despite a blizzard of criticism over the competitiveness of the last four tests – the two in Australia in 2011 as well as the games in Cavan, and Croke Park over the last two weekends – and the apparent disinterest of the AFL, O'Neill sees a future for the hybrid game.
The president said that, as far as he was concerned, there was no doubt about the tour to Australia in 2014 and that he would like to see the concept developed further beyond that.
He said commitments were given at the post-match dinner on Saturday night from both himself and the AFL representatives that it would go beyond 2014.
"Obviously, certain things have to happen. But we had a very constructive meeting with the AFL about the future last week and we've left it with them. They will go back and speak with their players and clubs about what was discussed and they will come back to us with a response," he said.
"But I would be confident that it is here to stay," said O'Neill.
Among the areas that will be looked at is playing the series in November to avoid the holiday period for the top AFL players and give breathing space for Gaelic footballers involved in club activity.
Restoring the annual element instead of having two series every three years may also be on the cards, while a host of rules changes to restore some balance to the AFL game will also be on the cards if the commitments beyond 2014 move beyond words.
The AFL will look at fielding their all-Australian team, but because international rules doesn't suit players of every dimension, that would need a shift in the laws.
O'Neill praised the work of manager Paul Earley, his back-room team and the Irish players in delivering such high standards of play over the two weekends.
"I think that has probably been lost in all of this, just how good Ireland were and how good their level of skills were. I thought the standard of catching and kicking from our players on Saturday night was extremely high," said O'Neill.
People talk about the erosion of skills in Gaelic football, but Saturday night was a reminder of how high the levels of skills are.
"It's easy to forget that there have been only 38 games under this concept played, not much over 40 hours. That doesn't amount to a championship summer and yet we are expecting so much more from it. I think relations between the GAA and the AFL are good enough for things to happen that will allow the series to continue well beyond next year," he said.
Meanwhile, Colm Boyle has revealed that he didn't regain consciousness until he was back in the dressing-room after being removed from the pitch following his collision with Lindsay Thomas in the first half of Saturday's Test.
Boyle doesn't remember standing up after the collision which was examined by the match review panel, who deemed that Thomas had no case to answer.
"I just remember going for a ball, being in mid-air going to fist it and then I just remember waking up in the dressing-room," said the Mayo ace.