COCA-COLA INTERNATIONAL RULES FIRST TEST
Pearse Stadium, 19:15:
Ireland v Australia
It stands at six crowns apiece as Ireland and Australia open the 13th International Rules series this Saturday. Ireland won the inaugural series back in 1984 and since the title has switched hands on a yearly basis with tradition suggesting the Cormac McAnallen Trophy will rest with the home side come Sunday evening, November 5th.
Pearse Stadium, which will host the first Test on Saturday night under floodlights, is a notoriously windy venue, something that could well tell favourably for Ireland. Though it should be noted that the Aussies were arguably the better kickers when they ran out with a massive +57 score difference across the two Tests last year Down Under.
2005 saw the Aussies work extremely hard on the basic kicking skills as they broke with tradition and fielded a smaller, quicker panel than in previous series. The Aussies still out muscled Pete McGrath’s choice of footballers, and indeed played the better football.
This time round new Ireland manager, Sean Boylan, has opted for a more physical squad, which should revert to a position-based line-up, with players rotating between centrefield and the forward berths, and a better use of the interchange.
The Irish team’s preparation appears to be thorough, including the introduction of a rugby coach to prime the panel in the art of the tackle. Boylan also took his charges on a weekend training camp in Toulouse, France, ahead of the opening Test.
There is no doubt that the Australians will still have the upper hand in the tackle, but the Meath native has assembled a squad that should be noted for its physical edge and high-fielding abilities.
Men with the aerial talents of Tadhg Kennelly, Kieran Donaghy and Nicholas Murphy add a dynamic that was missing in the 2005 games, something that enables Boylan to select a side with greater balance and the ability to deal better with their opponent’s beef.
How Kieran McGeeney fairs at midfield could be essential and there are justifiable concerns over his pace as he enters veteranhood. In Shane Ryan and Murphy Ireland have some robust deputies should their captain find himself overrun.
Dermot Earley, Benny Coulter, Tom Kelly and Graham Geraghty bring much needed experience to the Irish lineup, while Kennelly and Colm Begley’s extended soujourn in the AFL could prove vital to Ireland’s chances in a series that is expected to be tighter than last year’s whitewash.
For the Aussies Michael Voss, who captained the Brisbane Lions to an AFL Premiership three-in-a-row and is now retired, will be making his swansong in this year’s edition of the hybrid game. Nick Davis inflicted some of the fatal scores during the win over Ireland last time out and his pace and accuracy are a real danger to the Irish defence at a floodlit Pearse Stadium.
Everything taken into account it should be a hard fought game in the first Test with Ireland winning by a narrow margin on front of a full house.
IRELAND SQUAD: Kieran McGeeney (Armagh, captain), Tadhg Kennelly (Sydney Swans and Kerry, vice-captain), Aidan O’Mahony, Marc O Se, Kieran Donaghy, Paul Galvin, (Kerry), Kevin Reilly, Anthony Moyles, Graham Geraghty (Meath), Alan Quirke, Nicholas Murphy, (Cork), Ronan Clarke, Steven McDonnell (Armagh), Tom Kelly (Laois), Colm Begley (Brisbane Lions and Laois), Sean Martin Lockhart, (Derry), Shane Ryan, Alan Brogan (Dublin), Kieran Fitzgerald, Joe Bergin (Galway), Sean Cavanagh, (Tyrone), Brendan Coulter, (Down), Dermot Earley (Kildare), Paul Barden (Longford) and Karl Lacey (Donegal). Standby: Stephen O’Neill (Tyrone), Dessie Dolan (Westmeath), Darragh O Se (Kerry).
AUSTRALIAN SQUAD: Chance Bateman (Hawthorn), Campbell Brown (Hawthorn), Ryan Crowley (Fremantle), Aaron Davey (Melbourne), Nick Davis (Sydney), Sam Fisher (St Kilda), Dustin Fletcher (Essendon), Lindsay Gilbee (Western Bulldogs), Brendon Goddard (St Kilda), Barry Hall (Sydney), Graham Johncock (Adelaide), Matthew Lappin (Carlton), James McDonald (Melbourne), David Mundy (Fremantle), Ryan O’Keefe (Sydney), Brett Peake (Fremantle), Danyle Pearce (Port Adelaide), Andrew Raines (Richmond), Brendan Fevola (Carlton), Adam Schneider (Sydney), Adam Selwood (West Coast), Justin Sherman (Brisbane Lions), Kade Simpson (Carlton), Brent Stanton (Essendon), Michael Voss (Brisbane Lions).
Filed under: Laois Football