With the cloud of uncertainty over the availability of a number of key players having been lifted, Ireland manager Anthony Tohill has launched an intensive build-up to Friday’s first International Rules Test against Australia in Melbourne.
The arrival of skipper Stephen Cluxton along with Colm Begley, Finian Hanley and Leighton Glynn has boosted morale considerably within the squad and paved the way for a rigorous training schedule that Tohill hopes will bring his players to concert pitch.
Strength and conditioning coach Mike McGurn along with selectors Sean Og de Paor, Kevin O’Brien, Eoin ‘Bomber’ Liston and Kieran McGeeney will spend the next three days focusing closely on the players physical strength and stamina.
There is already a great sense of camaraderie and togetherness within the squad and Tohill believes that this cohesion and unity can now be transported onto the field of play.
“When we played Australia last year we gave them too much of a head start. We can’t afford to allow that to happen this time round. We must protect our possession and try and take our scoring chances,” Tohill said.
Meanwhile, the Gaelic Players’ Association is now urging that county team match-day panels should be increased from 24 to 30.
And Dublin All-Ireland winning midfield ace Michael Darragh Macauley has called for county team managers to be paid. His comments have been echoed by GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell who says: “Our members have endorsed the formalising of the payment of managers thus making this credible and legitimate. The GPA is satisfied this won't in any way lead to a call for payments to players.”
Meanwhile, in the Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship final Middletown overcame Castleblayney by 5-16 to 0-5 with skipper Ryan Gaffney and Marty Mone leading the scoring blitz. They will now meet the Munster champions in the All-Ireland Club series on January 22.
Elsewhere, Derry city side Na Magha were beaten by Donegal champions Burt in the Ulster Club Junior decider by 1-12 to 1-9 having enjoyed an interval lead of 1-7 to 0-7 before a Johnathan McGrath goal early in the second-half swung the game in Burt’s favour.