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Diarmuid Marsden fears for International Rules series future

By Declan Bogue

Former Armagh and Ireland attacker Diarmuid Marsden feels that the growing indifference towards the International Rules series could be accelerated if tomorrow's test between Ireland and Australia is an underwhelming contest.

Marsden, an All-Ireland winner in 2002 who played in the first series of the revived idea in 1998, feels that a lot is at stake if the entertainment levels in Perth's Patersons Stadium fail to reach the heights of contests of the previous decade.

"I think Saturday is going to be a defining moment," says the Ulster Council coach. "If it's a close game and there is some excitement then there is the potential for it to continue. But if it's like the last two series, then it could be the end of it.

"It remains to be seen. People have said that if there are controversial incidents during the game then they would help to get people talking about it. I don't know if that's the way forward."

While there is considerable concern that there will only be one game played, staged almost a continent away from the Australian Rules heartland of Melbourne, the Aussies have declared their intent by naming a strong team full of club captains and All-Australian (the equivalent of the GAA All-Stars) winners.

However, Marsden believes that there cannot be a return to some of the violent scenes of the mid-2000s, given how much is at stake personally for the players.

"That was a bit of an appeal 20 years ago, and maybe before when it was all new," he said. "It is a more professional game now, our players are more professional and the Aussies are the same. They look after themselves and they don't want to take any risks to get injuries that might disrupt their own club careers as well."

Despite playing in 1998, Marsden personally is not a huge fan of the hybrid code, stating: "I enjoyed gaining an international cap and playing for my country. But the actual game itself, I didn't enjoy it. When you are playing with the best players in the country and you are representing Ireland it is all great, but as a game, give me football any day.

"When you look at the guys who go out to play professionally in Australia, most of them actually come home. They go and sample the professional life, which is brilliant and a great opportunity, but the game is still a foreign game to them. It's not their first love and most of them come back to play Gaelic football."

Marsden admits he will be glued to the television tomorrow morning.

"I will watch it and I am sure there will be thousands of others," he said. "Maybe it has an appeal from a spectator point of view, and if it is a good close match it might give it enough to continue. But even the fact that it is reduced to one match - they are diluting it the whole time."

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