Delayed take-off for International Rules stars
Ireland manager Sean Boylan is today taking stock of his overall resources as the countdown begins in earnest to the International Rules Tests against Australia.
The 27-strong Ireland squad is due to depart for Down Under on Saturday but, with a number of players having been involved in club championship matches over the weekend and others expected to assist their clubs next Saturday and Sunday, it may be that their arrival in Australia will be delayed.
Boylan, who conducted an open squad session at Croke Park at the weekend, has already expressed himself as being “well satisfied” with the manner in which his preparations have gone so far. But he makes no secret of the fact that he is keen to see as many of his players as possible on the plane on Saturday.
“I’m aware that we may have players who will be required by their clubs for semi-finals and finals of county championships and we are currently monitoring this situation.
“We are also checking on players who were in action for their clubs over last weekend to make sure they are unscathed,” points out Boylan.
Armagh ace Aaron Kernan will be required by Crossmaglen Rangers for their county final against Pearse Og on Sunday while Kerry’s Tommy Walsh, a shining jewel this season, may find himself on duty with Kerins O’Rahillys.
Other players are also expected to be caught up in a abridged version of 'club v country' but only in the very short term.
“At the end of the day we want everyone fit and ready for duty and if some players are delayed, we will have to live with this,” says Boylan.
The Ireland boss may already be denied the services of some of what would be regarded as first-choice players who are already immersed in Australian Rules football but one of these, Down’s Martin Clarke, has offered a message of support to his native country.
Clarke, a key player for top club Collingwood having bedded down comfortably in Australia where he now enjoys a huge profile, is ruled out of any involvement for Ireland because of an ankle injury.
But that has not stopped him talking up his country’s chances in the Test series.
“Sean Boylan has got a very skillful squad together and I have no doubt that if the players can cope with the physical side of things, then they will give a very good account of themselves,” he said.
“It will certainly be very interesting to see how they perform against this Australia side.
“ I have watched some of the All Ireland Championship action on television this year and that would convince me the Irish will be in with a big chance when they come here,” insists Clarke who played his club football with An Riocht and who is already on record as saying that he would like to return there in the future.
And while his home club would have a welcome on the mat for him, Down manager Ross Clarke would undoubtedly usher him straight back into the Mourne county fold.