Thursday 22 March 2018

Young gun Powter pleads with Kernan to let him duel with Australia's hotshot

Versatile Cork dynamo living the dream as he returns to his father's country on Irish duty

Sean Powter during Ireland International Rules squad training at Wesley College, St Kilda Road Complex, Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Sportsfile
Sean Powter during Ireland International Rules squad training at Wesley College, St Kilda Road Complex, Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

There's a lot happening in Sean Powter's sporting life. Nominated some weeks ago for the Young Footballer of the Year award along with Con O'Callaghan (Dublin), who won the honour, and Galway's Michael Daly, the Cork man now finds himself in Adelaide preparing for his first International Rules game.

At the age of 20, he's one of the youngest to play for Ireland but judging by his demeanour during training yesterday and his comments later on, he won't be in any way overawed by the challenges which lie ahead.

Perhaps it's the enthusiasm of youth and the fearlessness it brings, but there's no doubt that the Douglas clubman epitomises a generation that believes in itself. He wants to mark Eddie Betts in tomorrow's game, a task of immense proportions. At the age of 30, Betts is a seasoned professional with an impressive scoring record and since he plays with Adelaide Crows, local support will be vocal and plentiful.

Cue Powter and his plea to Joe Kernan to let him mark Betts.

"Joe hasn't said anything yet but I want the challenge of marking the best. I want to mark Eddie. He's something special," said Powter.

Betts has proven himself to be well-suited to the hybrid game in each of his previous five games so whether Kernan sends the young Rebel in his direction remains to be seen.

Powter didn't make the initial panel but got a call-up when Cork colleague Paul Kerrigan had to withdraw due to club commitments.

"It was unfortunate for him and fortunate for me," he said.

But then it may have been his destiny to play on an Irish team against Australia, a country with which he has close connections. His grandparents and aunt live in Australia and made a 12-hour journey on Thursday to meet him.

"When I was younger, I went to Australia a lot but I hadn't been there for about ten years. So I got to see my grandparents and auntie for the first time in ten years yesterday. It was unbelievable. I'm going to see them again after the game," he explained.

His father is Australian but moved to Ireland many years ago - hence, the link with a country that he would never have expected to visit in these circumstances, certainly not this early in his career,

"My Dad's from Parkes in New South Wales, a small city in the middle of nowhere. He met my mother in Greece and followed her over to Ireland," he outlined.

It gives Powter Jnr strong Aussie connections but it's Cork and Ireland all the way now.

One of the smaller members of the Irish team, his pace out of defence will be important in Ireland's counter-attacks.

The Australians may see him as a lightweight who can be bowled over easily by well-conditioned professionals but he has no fear of physical confrontation if the need arises.

Nonetheless, Kernan has been advising a cautious approach.

"Joe has warned me not to bring the ball into contact. Just avoid it. We know the Aussies are going to be aggressive. That's all they're saying...aggression, aggression.

"We saw what your man (Chad Wingard) said about us, calling us amateurs and saying they have higher fitness levels. That just drives us on," he said.

That's the sort of spirit which Kernan wants on his squad, which is why he opted for Powter ahead of older, more experienced alternatives.

And if Betts is tuned in, he will, no doubt, be intrigued by the comments from a young whirlwind opponent, who clearly believes in himself.

Not that Betts is short of confidence in his own abilities after such a long and successful career. Like Powter, he is small in stature but it has in no way hampered him.

He has scored 244 goals in his four seasons with Adelaide Crows and has also been prolific in International Rules.

He said that despite the lack of practise with the round ball, he finds it easy enough.

"I'm pretty confident mine are going to go over. It's not hard to kick the round ball around the corner," he said.

And while Powter likes to go forward from his defence, Betts specialises in chasing down backs who possess an adventurous streak.

Sooner or later, their two worlds look certain to collide in what will be an intriguing duel.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport