Sunday 25 August 2019

Dick Clerkin: Dublin's status means their no-show Down Under has damaged series brand

Ireland players, left to right, Conor McManus, Karl O'Connell, Michael Murphy and Enda Smith
Ireland players, left to right, Conor McManus, Karl O'Connell, Michael Murphy and Enda Smith

Dick Clerkin

Based on my overly active Twitter feed, it seems many Dublin supporters, and some players, have taken particular exception to my suggestion of a snub on the part of the Dublin panel towards this year International Rules series.

While their defence has been forthright, the evidence against is damning. Ciarán Whelan openly expressed his disappointment on air that nobody from his own county was represented on the panel. Read into that what you will.

Played in the early hours, on the other side of the globe, this year's series passed largely under the radar. Opinion will always be divided on the merits and relevance of the International Rules series. To the extent that for many, Dublin's involvement or lack thereof is a moot point. However, if the series is to be seen as a credible long-term entity, it is more than reasonable to question why there wasn't a Dublin representative on the Ireland panel for this year's series.

On the evidence of what we saw this year, the Aussies have started to take the series seriously again. Recognising a broader commercial potential, the AFL and GAA are poised to bring a Test match to US shores next time. A smart move in which a 50,000-plus sell-out would be guaranteed. Nowadays sporting organisations have to be innovative to generate exposure for their games in what is a ruthlessly competitive sports media market.

A credible and competitive International Rules series can serve a valuable purpose in this regard for both organisations. This credibility is dependent on a full commitment on both sides to make it work. Australian apathy damaged the brand for a time, but this year it was ourselves that scored an own-goal by not having any representatives from Dublin, our current standard-bearers, on the panel.

Even amid the Australians' second-half dominance in Perth, Ireland still had a puncher's chance of stealing the series. With the intensity rising, the Olé, Olé, Olés rang out from Subiaco stadium's rickety old stands, and the International Rules was again proving its potential as a novel sporting contest.

Alas, it wasn't to be for Ireland, and Joe Kernan understandably cut a frustrated figure after the game.

Read more here:

Ireland manager Joe Kernan. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland manager Joe Kernan. Photo: Sportsfile

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Unable to secure a victory in his last managerial appointment on the big stage, such frustration was surely in part borne out of having to build a panel, shorn of our All-Ireland winners' talents. How he could have done with some of their winning know-how and experience in his camp over the two Test series.

Leadership, athleticism and inherent footballing ability are key attributes for the International Rules code.

Dublin are unrivalled in these quarters; hence any Irish team without their involvement are severely weakened before a ball is thrown in. I have been forcibly informed that there was nothing divisive surrounding Dublin's no-show in Australia.

A number of players seemingly observed a few of the early training sessions so an all-out blanket refusal to engage is an unfair charge to lay at their door. Yet considering their status, surely they were conscious of how they would be missed both on and off the field?

Part of the allure for this series overseas is for ex-pats to cheer on their national side, and players from their own county.

Sligo's Niall Murphy stood proudly with club-mates holding a Coolera/Strandhill jersey after the game. With that in mind amidst all the social media crossfire, I simply asked Jack McCaffrey was he ok with Dublin not being represented in Australia . 'Perfectly Ok' was his reply. A disappointing if unsurprising response.

Plenty of exiled Dublin supporters in Perth and Adelaide would have only loved a chance to cheer on and even get a photo with some of their three-in-a-row heroes. Regrettably, it wasn't to be this year.

Is it really credible to suggest that not one of Dublin's exalted panel of players could have made the trip to Australia? Not one? I struggle to believe that Joe Kernan and his management team didn't make every effort to avoid a potential Dublin no-show.

As a commercial venture, for it to even be suggested that the All-Ireland champions didn't feel it worth their time and commitment, would be a damning indictment of the series. Any one of Dublin's first 30 players would have been good enough to get a place on that Ireland panel.

Did nobody on either side take a step back and recognise the poor optics of not having any Dublin representation?

The silence around same raises more questions than answers.

From Dublin's point of view, even if many of their top players had genuine excuses, some of their abundantly talented panel should have been asked to 'take one for the team' and go to sun-drenched Australia to represent their country.

Both sides should have done whatever was needed to avoid the now damaging perceptions surrounding a Dublin no-show.

In the end it didn't happen, and you can be your own judge as to the reasons behind same.

Far from being a scandal of any great proportion, Ireland losing to Australia without any of this great Dublin team in their ranks was, as Whelan put it, more 'disappointing' than anything.

For all supporters of the International Rules series, the Dublin diaspora in Perth and Adelaide, and most importantly the players and management who could have sorely done with their input, it was very disappointing indeed.

Irish Independent

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