Ireland manager Sean Boylan is today monitoring his resources as he fixes his sights on Friday’s second International Rules Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Skipper Sean Cavanagh and Kerry ace Kieran Donaghy, both of whom were outstanding in the 45-44 first Test victory in Perth, picked up knocks in that contest and have been receiving treatment.
Now that his side are settled in Melbourne, manager Boylan (pictured) is already mapping out his strategy for the decisive showdown with the Aussies.
“Our first priority is to ensure that everyone is fit and well, that’s paramount. We will certainly need to have everyone on board as Australia will now be very keen to overturn last Friday’s result,” insists former Meath All-Ireland winning manager Boylan.
Although the Irish were both relieved and pleased to have drawn first blood in the series, Boylan and captain Cavanagh are at pains to stress that their hosts will be even more fired up for Friday’s confrontation.
Boylan has already pinpointed what he feels were Ireland’s shortcomings last Friday and will work on these in training over the course of the week while Cavanagh has urged his players to take it to the next level in front of what is expected to be a sell-out Melbourne crowd.
“I thought there was some fantastic football played by both teams in the first Test. Some big hits went in but it was a very sporting contest overall. We know that we will come under more pressure on Friday and we have to be ready for that,” maintains Cavanagh whose superb goal — one of three scored by Ireland — proved central to their victory.
And he adds: “I think there will be an unbelievable atmosphere in Melbourne for the game.
“The crowd will be bigger and obviously the pressure will be greater which means that the intensity level will be upped.”
If Ireland required any further warning that they could be pushed to the limit in the second meeting with the Aussies, then it came from their hosts’ manager Mick Malthouse.
Having initially expressed his reservations about the validity of the yellow card which Campbell Brown received which necessitated him spending the greater part of the last quarter of Friday’s first Test in the sin bin, Malthouse quickly indicated that his side would be working on their skill levels this week.
“I thought some of our hand-passing was weak. There are areas in which we will need to improve.
“We came back well in the last quarter of the first Test but we will need to show a big step-up on Friday in Melbourne if we are to win the series,” admitted Malthouse.
There were some exceptional individual performances within his team in Perth and among players who created big problems for the Irish were Mark Murphy, who scored four superb overs. Jarryd Brennan, captain Brent Harvey and Scott Thompson were also prominent.
The quality of Murphy’s finishing in particular troubled the Irish rearguard in which Armagh’s Ciaran McKeever, playing in his first Rules Test, impressed as did Westmeath’s All-Star corner-back John Keane.
But the Australians were permitted rather too much time and space in the second and fourth quarters in particular.
They scored 18 points in the second spell and underlined their stamina and tenacity by racking up a further 16 points in the final quarter with Ireland grimly holding on to win by the narrowest of margins.