Tuesday 20 August 2019

'There's a lot more to come from this Irish team' - Kernan

Ireland team captain Aidan O’Shea with Stuart Broad, the England fast bowler, whom he met outside the Adelaide Oval at the weekend. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Ireland team captain Aidan O’Shea with Stuart Broad, the England fast bowler, whom he met outside the Adelaide Oval at the weekend. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Joe Kernan used various psychological ploys which helped Armagh and Crossmaglen Rangers to All-Ireland successes over the years and he is now facing the major challenge of relocating a magic touch in the international arena on Saturday.

His managerial career won't be defined by whether Ireland beat Australia on aggregate in the International Rules series but if he were to locate a way out of a very difficult situation it would rank as a crowning glory for a great career.

Ireland will take a 10-point deficit into the second Test in Perth and while clawing it back is an achievable target in a game where a goal and an 'over' are worth nine points between them, the Irish performance will need to be a lot more consistent than last Sunday.

"We all know there's more in this squad. Getting it out of them and winning the series is what we're all about now. We'll take it on and have a real go," said Kernan.

A cold analysis of Sunday's 63-53 defeat is uncomfortable for the Irish squad, except perhaps for the consolation that if they had cut out errors, they would have taken a lead out of the Adelaide Oval.

"There were things we did well and then we stopped doing them. That's the disappointing part," said Kernan.

"It's great to have another game next Saturday. If it was one Test only, we'd be on the plane home soon enough and sickened," said Kerry's Paul Geaney.

"We've a lot to work on - we know that," said Cavan's Killian Clarke.

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The Irish squad left Adelaide yesterday in a state of total frustration at the end of a difficult few days when the gods appeared to mock them.

Losing two players, Enda Smith (Roscommon) and Niall Murphy (Sligo), with stomach sickness was a serious setback and with some others suffering from a milder version of the bug, Ireland needed everything to go right for them on match day.

Instead, they lost Pearce Hanley with a hand injury in the second quarter.

"It was most unfortunate for Pearce and the team. He was going well, as he always does in this game. We missed his experience and understanding of what's needed here and of the Australian players and their mindset," said Kernan.

Hanley had also been hit by the stomach bug but had recovered sufficiently to play, unlike Smith and Murphy, neither of whom attended the game.


Monaghan's Darren Hughes has been called up as a replacement for Hanley while Smith and Murphy will be monitored over the coming days.

Calling in AFL recruit Conor Glass (Derry), who is playing with Hawthorn in Melbourne, is an option if one - or either - is ruled out.

Running an interchange bench of six rather than eight increased the workload on the squad, leaving them with less rest time on an afternoon when the temperatures soared into the thirties.

That raises the question of why extra players weren't included. Apparently, it was decided to restrict the panel to 23, in order to ensure that everyone got a game, rather than have a few players travelling all the way to Australia and getting no action.

"It was unfortunate that the two lads got such a serious stomach bug. It's tough on Enda and Niall - they were desperate to play but circumstances didn't allow it. They got a bad going over. Hopefully, they will be right for next Saturday," said Kernan.

He remains convinced that the series can be saved, but only if Ireland reduce the error count.

"It's about looking at how we played - how we can improve and how we can stop the Australians doing the things they did well. There's a lot of video work to be done, assessing where we went wrong.

"There were things we did well and then we stopped doing them. The third quarter always seems to be a problem.

"It was a matter of composure really - we lost it completely for a spell. We got it back in the last quarter, which gives us a lot to work on.

"Up to that, our passing was poor at times and that's not like us. It's about being calm under pressure the next day. Also, we had a few goal chances we didn't take - if even one had gone in it would have been a different story. We've got to take our goal chances - it's as simple as that," said Kernan.

The odds against the Cormac McAnallen Cup being on the plane back to Ireland next week have increased substantially but Kernan and the squad insist the challenge is not insurmountable.

"We're 10 points down - that's little more than 1-1 in Gaelic football terms so it looks worse than it is. We're still in there with a right good chance, but we need to make a good start," said Kernan.

History is less kind to that positive assessment as margins of this size have never been wiped out in the second game.

"There's always a first time. What happened in the past doesn't matter now. We're going on the evidence of what we saw and while we lost we know the reasons and will do all we can to correct them," said Kernan.

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