Monday 20 August 2018

Big names putting their hands up for Australian adventure

Mayo star Aidan O'Shea. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Mayo star Aidan O'Shea. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Slowly, the picture is becoming a little clearer for International Rules manager Joe Kernan.

The task of whittling down his squad began in the GAA's National Development Centre in Abbotstown in Dublin last Friday night with the availability of many front-line players up in the air for a variety of reasons.

Kernan was slow to go into specifics but the panel has some shape to it already.

The 2002 All-Ireland-winning manager will bring a 23-man panel Down Under for the Tests on November 12 and 18 in Adelaide and Perth but in reality there are just 20 spots to fight for with Kernan confirming that the AFL trio of Conor McKenna, Pearce Hanley and Zach Tuohy will be involved.

The 2016 Footballer of the Year Lee Keegan won't be part of the touring party due to a hip injury but several Mayo and Dublin players have put their hands up for inclusion.

Mayo's Aidan O'Shea, Chris Barrett and Brendan Harrison are making themselves available while Tom Parsons's availability should become clearer this week.

Ireland International Rules manager Joe Kernan is looking to players with ‘mobility, pace and kicking ability’ for his squad. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ireland International Rules manager Joe Kernan is looking to players with ‘mobility, pace and kicking ability’ for his squad. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Several Dublin players are in action with their clubs this weekend in the Dublin SFC quarter-finals but Brian Fenton, James McCarthy and Con O'Callaghan were name-checked by Kernan yesterday.

Bernard Brogan, captain of the side in 2015, is involved while Stephen Cluxton has been contacted about his availability.

Kernan stressed that the players he picks will be "mobile, have pace, and good kicking ability" but also insisted that he expects lower-profile counties to be well represented.

"There are an awful lot of players around the rest of the country as well," Kernan said, as EirGrid were announced as sponsors of the Irish team at an event in the Australian Embassy in Dublin yesterday.

"I don't want to name names in case it doesn't work out for people, but if you saw the stats of the speed of all the players and the high speed that they can run at it would surprise you.

"There's wee small men out there who can run at high levels too, so there might be a surprise with one or two small men appearing out in Australia.

"The beauty of this is that there are players who are going to come out of the woodwork that you would not have thought of like Gary Brennan a couple of years ago who was absolutely brilliant for us.

"There are a few other boys there. Brendan Murphy from Carlow is in and he did extremely well last weekend. That's not fair singling him out if things do not work out in four weeks' time. That is just the problem at the moment, I can't confirm anyone."

Kernan led Ireland to victory last time out in 2015 when the sides played just one Test. This time around they will play twice inside a week.

"Well, when the final whistle went two years ago I was glad, but then you think you'd love another crack at this next week. It was exciting, kept everyone on their toes.

"We went to sleep a wee bit in the last two quarters, but it's about regaining our composure, and that's why it's important that we did take in three boys from Australia.

"They understand that, and you just don't fly off the handle and blow someone out of the water. The four quarters are important, and the Aussies know how to play the four quarters, whereas we start off very well, then had a bit of a dip, then come to life at the end.

"So to have those three (AFL) guys on the field will be a big help, especially out there."

Kernan believes the GAA have nothing to fear from the AFL as they continue to be linked with some of the country's best young talent.

"In fairness, if you had a son or any of us had a son that was good enough to be invited out there and make a living and a livelihood playing sport none of us would complain about that. And if someone wants to do that that's their choice."

Irish Independent

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