Friday 15 December 2017

O'Brien defends shortened Rules pitch

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The shortened pitch dimensions used for last weekend's first International Rules Test in Limerick will be retained at Croke Park for Saturday's concluding Test.

That means that the goalposts will be brought infield from the existing end lines by up to 7.5 metres at either end, with the width of the pitch being brought five metres in from either existing sideline.

The shortening of the pitch was a talking point in the build-up to last weekend's clash as the dimensions were specifically requested by the Irish management team.

They had based their assessment on the dimensions used for the 2008 Rules series in Australia, where the pitch size was 130 metres by 80 metres -- the biggest rectangle that can be fitted into an oval AFL pitch, which itself is 160 metres by 130 metres (maximum) in dimension.

As a consequence, the International Rules pitch is now smaller than the maximum size allowed for a Gaelic football pitch -- 145 metres by 90 metres.

Irish selector Kevin O'Brien has defended the request for the smaller pitch and argues that it was never designed to compress the more athletic Australians.

"The advantage of limiting the space works both ways," said O'Brien. "If it lessens space for the Australians, it makes tackles for them easier to execute. All we wanted was for the pitch to be the same size as it was for the 2008 games in Perth and Melbourne and that much was achieved."

GAA officials had advised against shortening the pitch but there will be no change ahead of Saturday's second Test. Meanwhile, the Irish management will meet this morning to considering restoring Michael Shields and Benny Coulter to the squad.

Coulter sat out the first Test with a hamstring injury, but O'Brien stated that he is available to the team once again. And Shields, who played for St Finbarr's in last Sunday's Cork football final which they lost to Nemo Rangers, is also available if required.

The Irish squad will gather in Carton House, Maynooth, tomorrow evening to begin preparations for the concluding Test.

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