Saturday 20 October 2018

'Your heart never fully leaves' - Tuohy hopes to play for Laois again

All eyes are on the ball as Peter Crowley tries to make a return during the Ireland International Rules squad’s trip to Glenelg Beach in Adelaide. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
All eyes are on the ball as Peter Crowley tries to make a return during the Ireland International Rules squad’s trip to Glenelg Beach in Adelaide. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Zach Tuohy has a big ambition but whether he ever achieves it depends on so many factors that he must store it at the back of his mind for the foreseeable future.

"I'd like to go back and play with Laois at some stage. I've never played senior championship football with them so that's still on the cards so long as my body is fit, come retirement (from Australian Rules).

"That's what I plan to do but I don't know how things will work out. I'm not sure where I'll end up after football. I'm very happy here (Australia) and there are a lot of opportunities, but your heart never fully leaves (home)," said the Portlaoise man.

For now, it's all about Ireland v Australia in the two International Rules games over the next eight days before he heads back for pre-season training with Geelong.

Zach Tuohy during Ireland International Rules squad training in Melbourne. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Zach Tuohy during Ireland International Rules squad training in Melbourne. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

He joined them at the end of last year, having spent seven years with Carlton.

"The move has gone well. It's always a big decision to change clubs but when the time came I was keen to get to Geelong. I really like it as club and a town - it's good for me and my family and that transfers onto the field," he said.

Geelong have been competitive for a long time and now it's a question of whether they can take the next big step, with Tuohy as a major influence.

Pursuit

"I'm only 27 so I have a little time left. Having said that, I'm getting to the back end so I really want to have success over the next few years."

The next challenge in that pursuit comes in Adelaide on Sunday and Perth on Saturday week when Tuohy will be a central figure in Ireland's bid to retain the Cormac McAnallen Cup.

The Irish management and players are leaning heavily on Tuohy and fellow-AFL star Pearce Hanley for an insight into how and what the Australians are thinking.

"I know how the AFL lads play and how they might transition (to the mixed game). I can't be sure exactly how they will play but I have a reasonable idea. I know their mentality," said Tuohy.

He won't rise to the bait after Australia's Chad Wingard said that they were stronger and fitter than Ireland.

"That's the mentality they bring into games like this. I think they are under-selling just how hard and how professional GAA players are. I probably didn't fully realise it myself until recent times as well. The gap (in fitness and strength) isn't as big as it might have been in the past," he said.

Still, the Australians clearly believe they can out-muscle Ireland, leading to fears of an overspill of aggression, similar to what happened on occasions in the past. Getting the correct balance between fierce intensity and violence is crucial if the game is to prosper.

While nobody wants a return to the awful scenes that marred the series in 2005 and 2006, there has been a feeling since then that some of the games lacked the edge required to whet the public appetite.

"When it comes to behaving properly, it's the same in the GAA as the AFL. Players know what they can and cannot do. There's always that tension in these games but you can't overstep the mark because if you do, you're not helping anyone.

"It's probably a bit more physical than either game is individually but I don't think it will spill over.

"Interest is starting to build here again because of the quality of the (Australian) team they sent out in the last couple of series.

"Nobody wants to watch it if it's going to be a blow-out every year. It needs to be competitive in the right way if the series is to survive," said Tuohy.

Tuohy expects Ireland to have a skill advantage with the round ball but warns that it would be wrong to assume that the Australians won't master it.

History shows that they find it difficult at first, before improving rapidly. Indeed, there have been occasions when Australia played a better kicking game than Ireland.

"You would expect us to have an advantage with the round ball but these are big, strong professional athletes. They're not used to the ball but they adapt quickly.

"For those back home who don't know, this Australian team is pretty much the cream of the AFL. They are all big names. They will be very detailed in how they go about their business. They will have a plan and since playing football is their job, they good at sticking to the plan," he said.

He found that aspect of the game difficult on his arrival in Australia after being spotted by AFL scouts as a star Laois minor.

"It took me a good year to get comfortable with it. That was the most difficult part for me," he added.

Irish Independent

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