Cluxton's vow of silence is no issue for Tohill
Golf's Ryder Cup has given sport the curious concept of the non-playing captain but the GAA has matched it now with the appointment of the non-speaking captain.
Irish International Rules manager Anthony Tohill confirmed yesterday that Stephen Cluxton, true to form, will not conduct any formal speaking engagements in his capacity as team captain on the forthcoming tour to Australia.
Cluxton, who has a strict policy of not engaging with the media, will forego involvement in the pre and post-match press conferences that are obligatory as part of the agreement between the GAA and AFL.
In explaining the decision to appoint Cluxton as captain, Tohill said he respected the player's right "as an amateur" to deal with the media in whatever way he chooses. Tohill revealed that there was "no reluctance" on Cluxton's behalf to accept the honour of captaining his country over the weekend when it was offered to him.
"Stephen takes things in his stride. He wasn't dancing around the place but he was very happy and honoured to be captain of Ireland," said the manager.
Tohill said media engagements were not part of his criteria in choosing a captain to succeed Stevie McDonnell, who captained Ireland in the last series 12 months ago.
"In my list of things required to be team captain, his ability to speak to the media is not on my list. And that is no disrespect. I know the media has a job to do," said Tohill, who said speaking engagements would be looked after by others. Armagh's Ciaran McKeever has been appointed vice-captain.
"I have got to take a football decision and the right football decision to make was to make Stephen Cluxton captain. I respect totally the fact that he deals with the media in his own way. And that is his right as an amateur."
Still, given the promotional requirements from both organisations to sell the hybrid concept, Cluxton's appointment will raise eyebrows in some quarters.
Tohill described Cluxton as a "stand-out candidate after the year he had with Dublin" and added that he was "great in the dressing-room".
"There is a side to him that the public do not get to hear," he said.
There had been some speculation that Tadhg Kennelly would be made captain but Tohill was swayed by the commitment shown by Cluxton.
"Stephen was training on the Saturday morning after the All-Ireland. He was at a wedding in Carton House last Friday week and he came out of the wedding to train with us before going back into the wedding. His commitment is phenomenal. His appetite for the game is unbelievable," said Tohill.
His participation in the series is still dependent on Parnells' progress in the Dublin SFC over the next few weeks. Were they to reach the semi-finals in three weeks' time it would leave him in a club-v-country dilemma.
"I am hoping the matter is resolved and that Stephen will get the opportunity to captain his country. It's hypothetical. He will not be looking forward beyond this weekend," said Tohill.
In contrast to Cluxton, Bernard and Alan Brogan have indicated from the outset that they would be concentrating exclusively on club commitments.
"There are a number of players we would have looked at and contacted. Stephen took one approach to it and other players took a different approach to it," said Tohill. "With club commitments, some players felt that they were going to be in it over a longer period of time and weren't able to commit to it."
Tohill named 18 of the 23-man squad and revealed that a number of potential players had picked up knocks, Colm Begley (Laois) and Rob Kelly (Kildare) among them. Cork dual player Eoin Cadogan is among the 18 while last year's Young Footballer of the Year, Aidan Walsh, is also included.
Tohill stressed the need for a better start to the series than they had 12 months ago in Limerick when only a last-quarter goal from Bernard Brogan roused the Test match into life.
"Australia taught us a lesson in how to kick the ball here last year. (It was hard) for us to see players who, week in week out, are scoring wonderful points in Gaelic football to be almost like a different players when the intensity of the tackle is maybe not on them, but the threat of it is there," he said.
"So we are trying to ramp up the intensity of our training so the lads are more used to disposing of the ball when they are under pressure."
Tohill defended the relative dearth in entertainment in last year's two-Test series and suggested entertainment was not necessarily their "raison d'etre."
"We're in the business of winning football matches. It's great if people are entertained. But how many games were you entertained by when you watched the football championship this year, if entertainment is your raison d'etre?
"The game has evolved. The hard-nosed aggression has come out of the game and I think in a perverse way, that was one of the attractions... Maybe that's why people are confused -- because they're not seeing that end of it."
IRELAND (initial 18-man squad) -- S Cluxton (Dublin, capt), C McKeever (Armagh, vc), E Bolton (Kildare), E Cadogan (Cork), K Donaghy (Kerry), L Glynn (Wicklow), F Hanley (Galway), P Hanley (Mayo/Brisbane Lions), D Hughes (Monaghan), T Kennelly (Kerry/Sydney), S McDonnell (Armagh), K McKernan (Down), J McMahon (Tyrone), N McGee (Donegal), M Murphy (Donegal), Darran O'Sullivan (Kerry), K Reilly (Meath), A Walsh (Cork).