Tohill savours success as he justifies second series in Irish hot seat
IT has been a long and highly productive relationship with International Rules, but Anthony Tohill has severed his direct relationship with a game he decorated as a player before having a two-year stint as manager.
Ten years after he captained Ireland to a series win in Australia, he repeated the feat as a manager as the tourists powered to a 2-0 win and a record margin.
It was an occasion to savour for Tohill, who recalled how some people contended two years ago that he "had no right to get the job and questioned my appointment as manager".
His first season was a disappointment as Ireland lost twice to Australia last year, but it was much different this time.
The series was all but secured with a 44-point win in the first Test but Tohill was determined to build on that momentum and take the second Test too.
"Tonight was all about winning and it didn't matter whether it was by a point or 21 points," he said.
"Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that we won every quarter (in both games) so we couldn't ask for any more from our players. They were fantastic again."
He believes that the opening win in Melbourne was Ireland's best performance in International Rules history.
"Nothing beats playing the game and I was lucky enough to have captained Ireland in 2001 to a Test series win," he said.
"But that performance last Friday night in Melbourne was, I thought, the most complete performance that I saw from any Irish team."
His oppositie number Rodney Eade made no excuses for Australia's worst ever series.
"The effort was very good but the disparity in skill levels was the difference," Eade said.
"Well done to the Irish. I thought they were fantastic. They were very professional. To me, professionalism isn't measured in money. It means the way you go about playing. Their application was outstanding and I thought it was probably the best squad they have picked."
Ciaran McKeever, again taking media duties in place of silent captain Stephen Cluxton, said that Australia raised the physical stakes but Ireland were never going to back off.
"It was more physical than last time. They tried to up the ante and intimidate us, but we stood our ground and weren't going to back down," said McKeever.
Tadhg Kennelly spoke of how the squad felt a huge responsibility to emulate the rugby team by beating Australia.
"It's something we talked about, trying to get a bit of pride back in Ireland," Kennelly said. "To bring a bit of happiness and give people a few minutes not to worry about what's going on outside the house.
"We tried to give them pride in the people who come from their clubs and their counties."
While it was a special occasion for the Irish camp, there was disappointment for Donegal's Karl Lacey, who was not included in the match-day 23 for the second week.
Brought to Australia as a back-up player, he got no opportunity as his colleagues, including Emmet Bolton, who took a heavy knock to the head in the first Test, were fit to play.
"It was the hardest thing I've had to do, telling Karl Lacey that he wasn't going to take any part in the game," Tohill said.
"I had a conversation with him on that basis before we left and there were no guarantees that Karl was going to see action."
It was the only unpleasant experience Tohill encountered on what was a special day for him.
Even when Australia led by seven points after 10 minutes, he had no major concerns.
"Had they been 16-1 ahead at quarter-time we'd have been worried, but when they went ahead we came straight back at them," Tohill said.
"Australia had put a serious amount of effort into those first six or seven minutes, but once we picked it up, we got on top and went on to win the first quarter."