Rules boss in Earley 'flare-up' warning
NEW Ireland International Rules team manager Paul Earley warned that it "only takes one incident" for the series to be plunged back into the violent scenes that almost saw the GAA abandon the series.
The Roscommon man will take charge of the Irish team for their two Tests against Australia in October and he believes it wouldn't take much for a return to the controversy of the 2006 Tests that saw the series suspended.
"All it takes is one incident or one player to be undisciplined and it could flare up again," warns Earley, who played for Melbourne in the AFL in the 1980s.
"Following the series in 2006, everybody was able to take a step back and there were some rule changes and efforts to get back to the core of what this is all about.
"It is about being competitive and about trying to win. But it is also about sharing and learning and there's also a bit of a social element as well. I think that has been missed over a period. A lot of that is because of the incidents that took place. That's understandable, that creates a very fractious relationship."
Ironically, since the series was revived in 2010, it has come under fire for being too sanitised. Attendances in both Australia and Ireland have also seen a massive drop off from the second Test in 2006, when Croke Park sold out.
And Earley agrees that the game loses some of its appeal without a physical element.
"After the 2006 series they were warned I suppose, 'hold back.' There needs to be a physical element to it, that's one of the attractions."
Preparations for the Tests in Breffni Park Cavan on October 19 and Croke Park seven days later will begin in earnest in August, with Earley (left) set to put a premium on skilful players.
Having faced physically stronger Aussie opponents in the past, the 1985 All Star believes Ireland's elite players are now a match for the Australians.
"If you took our top 20-30 players and put them beside the Aussies and looked at their physique, there is probably not that much difference between them.
"Maybe five or 10 years ago it was quite different. The Australians now are looking for athletic players and produce footballers out of them.
"If you look at their physique, they are very lean, not many of them are carrying a lot of bulk, because the game is so fast and there is so much running involved. So I think our lads are probably physically as strong as the Australians."
Earley also confirmed Tony Scullion (Derry), Seamus McCarthy (Tipperary), Ciaran Whelan (Dublin) and ex-Cavan player Nicholas Walsh as his back-room team for the upcoming series.
Former Croke Park employee Walsh works for newly formed AFL franchise Greater Western Sydney in their high performance unit and was drafted by Melbourne Demons as a teenager.
He will return to Ireland when the AFL season comes to a close in August.