Tohill hits back over missing Kingdom influence
Irish International Rules manager Anthony Tohill has defended the absence of current Kerry footballers from the 22-man squad named in Croke Park yesterday.
Tohill named a strong squad that includes six players with AFL experience, the most Ireland have been able to draw upon in the history of the series.
Tommy Walsh and Tadhg Kennelly, the two players who left for Australian clubs after last year's All-Ireland triumph, are included in the squad.
But Declan O'Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy, who both featured in earlier practice sessions, have not stayed the pace because of pressing club commitments.
There had been suggestions of a cold reception towards the Rules series from Kerry players during the summer after Tohill's 'Sunday Game' comments on the Paul Galvin incident with Eoin Cadogan that led to a two-month suspension for the Kerry player.
But Tohill insisted yesterday that there was "never an issue" with the Kerry players and praised the "honesty" of Donaghy and O'Sullivan, who are both in club action this weekend.
Donaghy has a county final with Austin Stacks, while O'Sullivan is leading Dromid Pearses' charge to the Kerry junior final, and preparations for both have been deemed more important than Rules duty, a position Tohill says he understands.
He also revealed that Galvin wasn't asked in for trials by the rules management after missing so much of the season. Galvin also missed the 2008 series in Australia, preparations for which were already under way when his three-month suspension ended.
"We invited players up who we felt were suited to playing the game and wanted to play the game, had what it took to play the game and were coming in on the back of a good season," said Tohill.
"There were a number of players who possibly could have played the game, but we didn't want to waste anybody's time. We wanted to be fair to people.
"He (Galvin) was one of the guys in the category that I described. We felt we wouldn't be asking Paul. To be fair to him we didn't want to waste his time and we thought the right thing was to let it go for this season."
Tohill has also had to exclude the McMahon brothers from Tyrone, Justin and Joe, who were two of the stars when Ireland reclaimed the Cormac McAnallen Trophy in Australia.
"Both of them have injury problems and both of them have played very little football since they played Dublin in Croke Park, and that's almost three months ago," Tohill continued.
"It was in everyone's interest to conclude that, because of the injuries and the lack of football they have played, that we needed fully fit players playing for us and it was very unfortunate that we weren't able to consider the two of them, as we would have liked to."
The squad will be captained by Armagh's Stevie McDonnell, a veteran of the last six series.
He became a certainty for the role once Benny Coulter's hamstring injury was revealed, an injury that may keep him out of the first test in Limerick on Saturday week.
Tohill is confident, however, that he will be ready for the second test in two weeks' time in Croke Park.
There are 11 debutants, Bernard Brogan, Martin Clarke, Brendan Donaghy, James Kavanagh, Roscommon's Sean McDermott, Kevin McKernan, Brendan Murphy, Michael Murphy and Michael Shields.
Graham Canty and Kennelly are the most experienced players, having played in 2001 in Australia.
Armagh and Cork have the biggest representation with three players each, while Kerry, Dublin and Down all have two each.
Kennelly and Walsh are joined by former AFL players Shields, Clarke, Brendan Murphy (Carlow) and Colm Begley (Laois).
For Tohill the series still remains a physically charged one, despite the rules changes ironed out before the 2008 tests, negotiations that he himself was part of.
And he feels the tackle and interchange remain the Irish team's greatest challenge.
"The tackle is a big issue. For us it is a big challenge. There are two sides to it.
"It is taking the tackle from an Australian player in a way that it's not an affront to your manhood just because someone tackles you.
"You need to get up and get on with it and prepare yourself to be tackled again, and again, and again and responding to it in the right way.
"Making the tackles is the other side of it.
"We are trying to work on both aspects of that. With the short period of time we have and even the players with AFL experience, we will never replicate it and get lads to the level where Australia are at because they reared tackling from a young age."
Tohill expects big a improvement in the Irish appreciation of the interchange.
"It's still alien to a lot of our players because we don't have it in the GAA," Tohill added.
"There are 10 potential interchanges per quarter. That's a lot of changes.
"You'll know from watching the game how disjointed it can get out there once people start making interchanges and players don't even know who they are supposed to be marking around the central positions on the pitch.
"It's a key area. I know it's an area that before, the Australians were a little bit concerned with the restrictions on the inter-change, but now it's interesting that they are talking about putting a restriction on the inter-change in their own game.
"It's an important part of the game and something we need to get right. It is hard to practise it. I have been sitting up in the coaching box in Salthill, in Perth and in Melbourne and it is organised chaos.
"Even knowing who is on the pitch and who is off the pitch is a problem -- so much so that we have to devise a strategy that suits us and lends itself to what we want to do.
"Just because we are allowed to make 10 doesn't necessarily mean we will make 10 per quarter.
Irish international rules (squad v Australia) -- S McDonnell (Armagh), F Hanley (Galway), C Begley (Laois), B Brogan (Dublin), G Canty (Cork), S Cavanagh (Tyrone), M Clarke (Down), S Cluxton (Dublin), B Donaghy (Armagh), L Glynn (Wicklow), D Goulding (Cork), J Kavanagh (Kildare), P Keenan (Louth), T Kennelly (Kerry), S McDermott (Roscommon), C McKeever (Armagh), K McKernan (Down), B Murphy (Carlow), M Murphy (Donegal), K Reilly (Meath), M Shields (Cork), T Walsh (Kerry).
Standby players: E Bolton (Kildare), G Brennan (Clare), G Connaughton (Westmeath), B Coulter (Down), E Fennell (Dublin), J McCarthy (Limerick), N McNamee (Offaly).