Tohill fears lack of basic football skills will put Irish on Rules back foot
AHEAD of autumn's International Rules series against Australia, Ireland's management team have voiced concerns over the skills of modern inter-county footballers.
With preparations for the two test series in late October well under way, team boss Anthony Tohill yesterday expressed surprise at how much some players have struggled with some of the game's fundamental skills and insisted that players at the top level should be competent with both feet.
"There's no excuse for that," said the 1993 All-Ireland winner. "No excuse at all for why players wouldn't have the basic skills of the game and be able to execute them properly.
" You saw the game at the weekend with Donegal and Down and the difficulty players had fist-passing the ball.
"It's of concern that the basics of the game are not being coached well enough at a younger age. Maybe players aren't doing enough on their own."
Along with Eoin 'Bomber' Liston and Sean Og de Paor, Kevin O'Brien is a selector under Tohill and he believes that the trend towards packed defences in recent years has seen the emphasis move away from the kick pass, while the Aussies' distribution from the boot has improved greatly.
"Guys are looking up and they want to kick, but there's nothing on and there's lads staying back in front of the full-back," O'Brien said. "That can be a problem where guys are not kicking the ball as much in training and want to retain the possession.".
"The Aussies certainly have improved. You look back on the clips there in 1990. I remember Jack O'Shea before the second test.
"I met him for breakfast and he said 'We'll beat the Aussies easy today'. I said, 'How can you be so confident?' He says, 'Look out at the trees (blowing)'.
"The Aussies could not control the ball in the wind because their kicking ability wasn't good, but they have improved so much, it's unbelievable.
"They have adapted to kicking it around the corner. It was always going to be worrying that when the time came and they improved on their kicking, that they were going to be a strong force. Since the 90s they've really improved."
"Quite honestly we don't have enough lads that can kick with two feet. I think throughout the country it's an epidemic. I think that can only be put into people at juvenile level ... A lot of guys don't trust their weak foot which is a problem."
Tohill (below) ruled out the possibility of hurlers joining up with the team, meaning that there will be no room in the squad for the totemic Aisake O hAilpin, who spent three years in the AFL before switching back to hurling late last year.
However, the door remains open for Irish players plying their trade Down Under.
And while previous International Rules sides were afforded a training camp abroad, this year's side will stay at home and gather after the trial matches, which have been scheduled for late August.
"We started off with the Division 4 League final as the first game we viewed as a management team and we're hoping to see as many games as we can, cast the net as wide as we can and be as open minded as we can be," said the Derry legend.
"We're trying to give every player who plays inter-county football a reasonable and fair opportunity to be considered for selection," he added.