Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Joe Kernan: International Rules fine but shame about Tyrone

We're half-way there in terms of ensuring the future well-being of the International Rules series.

And while this will undoubtedly please many people, it may breed further scepticism and perhaps even disappointment in some quarters.

It was not so much the fact that Ireland overcame the Aussies by 45-44 in the first Test that has has fostered optimism on all fronts, it was more that the foothold towards winning the series was gained in a contest that was largely devoid of rancour and malice.

Whether this level of sportsmanship - the red-carding of Australia’s Campbell Brown was the only blemish on the first Test - is maintained for next Friday’s crucial showdown in Melbourne remains to be seen.

No doubt GAA President Nickey Brennan and those others who have worked hard to rekindle the series following last year’s wipe-out will be particularly keen to see a match that will provide the template for the future.

And as someone who is anxious to see the Irish really thrive on this occasion, I am keeping my fingers crossed that they will have absorbed lessons from the first Test even though they ultimately came out on top.

No doubt manager Sean Boylan will already have stressed the absolute necessity to move the ball quickly, to avoid getting caught in the all-enveloping tackles that the Australians execute so well and to amass more ‘overs’.

It was particularly disappointing that Ireland did not score more three-pointers last Friday - indeed, the Aussies were, if anything, just as prolific even though they were more unaccustomed to the round ball with Marc Murphy

in particular underlining his sublime finishing skills.

I was particularly struck by the extremely efficient manner in which Pat McEnaney carried out his duties as referee in the first Test - his communication with the players, his diplomacy and common sense shone through.

In contrast, his Australian counterpart tended to exude a measure of bias, in my opinion. I would have taken issue with some of his decisions and I thought that Ireland suffered unduly on occasions.

Let’s hope this situation is remedied for Friday’s match.

If the First Test proved trouble-free, then unfortunately the same thing cannot be said of the Tyrone senior football championship final between Dromore and Clonoe.

It was sad to see on television the incidents that blighted the occasion and I have no doubt that some individuals will have subsequently observed their actions on video with a measure of shame and regret.

Clonoe gained their title under Damian Cassidy’s firm guidance and this will certainly give him a further boost as he prepares to plunge into his new role as Derry manager in succession to Paddy Crozier.

Damian has certainly done his credentials no harm but while I would love to say the same about the Ulster team, I have to face stark reality.

In the Martin Donnelly Inter-provincial semi-final against Munster last Saturday, we certainly did not do ourselves justice.

Even though we were missing something like eleven players - Munster were also minus a raft of what I would regard as automatic first-choice representatives - I felt that the team we had on duty would have done themselves more justice.

We had prepared well, our challenge matches had proved useful in terms of assessing players and the mood overall was good but we appeared to leave our appetite and our game-plan on the training ground which was rather disappointing.

Munster were adequate, no more, and yet we were unable to make a real impact in the game.

It was obviously disappointing for me to make a losing debut as Ulster manager but there is still plenty of talent in the province and I feel sure that we can atone for this lapse next year.

I am aware that there has been an ‘unofficial’ negative response to my suggestion that the inter-pro series should be staged in the March-April period which, I have suggested, might prove a more appealing slot in the calendar.

The point has been made that March in particular is also a very busy period with the National Leagues, the Sigerson Cup and the conclusion of the All Ireland Club Championships.

But I would maintain that there should still be a window of opportunity for the staging of the inter-pros between the culmination of the Leagues and the start of the Championship season. There is generally something of a lull then and I would imagine that the inter-pro series might be accomodated. It would certainly be a more comfortable slot in the calendar than playing the series at this time of the year.

Not all teams reach the league finals and I feel that the inter-pros would actually offer players meaningful additional competitive action in advance of their championship campaigns.

I still believe this suggestion is worthy of consideration.

Anyone who was at Fermoy or Kiltoom last Saturday will surely agree with this!

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