Ireland manager Anthony Tohill has told his side to “finish the job in style” when they confront Australia in the second International Rules Test at the Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast tomorrow.
Even though the Irish enjoy a gigantic 44-point advantage from the first Test, Tohill has warned his players against any semblance of complacency.
“Australia have made it clear that they will be taking a different approach to this game and we must be ready for that. Their pride has been hurt and they will undoubtedly be keen to turn in a much improved performance,” insists Tohill.
Tyrone ace Joe McMahon looks likely to make the cut following the injury he sustained in the early stages of last Friday’s contest, not least as he and his team mates hit the waves at Surfers Paradise in a break from training yesterday.
The Omagh St Enda’s clubman was one of the stars of Ireland’s Test series win in 2008 and is particularly anxious to get game time tomorrow as is Donegal defender Karl Lacey.
The latter played no part in the game in Melbourne as Tohill can use only 23 players — eight rolling substitutes are permitted — but with Kildare’s Emmet Bolton still recovering from the concussion he sustained following a heavy tackle from Mitch Robinson there is still the slight chance that Lacey could feature.
With Australian coach Rodney Eade having indicated that his team will be “more physical” this time round, Tohill along with his strength and conditioning coach Mike McGurn has Ireland steeled for a rugged confrontation.
“I would imagine that Australia will tackle much harder and will seek to get off to a good start in the game,” maintains Tohill.
The Aussies’ inability to cope with the round ball cost them dearly in the first Test and it is difficult to see how they could make major improvements to their kicking skills within the space of a week.
In contrast, Ireland’s Steven McDonnell gave a master class in finishing, grabbing 18 points while Down’s Kevin McKernan proved a revelation, storming through from defence to land seven points in all meaning that this duo garnered almost one-third of their team’s total.
Tohill will again look to players with AFL experience — Zach Tuohy, Tommy Walsh, Colm Begley, Tadgh Kennelly and Brendan Murphy — to set the tone for his team’s performance.
Australian captain Brad Green along with Richard Douglas, James Frawley, Stephen Milne, Mark Nicoski, Andrew Swallow and David Wojcinski are expected to spearhead their team’s challenge.
And while the teams approach the game from rather contrasting perspectives, officials of the AFL and GAA are very much united in their desire to see a big crowd in the 25,000-capacity stadium.
There are fears that Ireland’s runaway win in the first Test has served to considerably dilute interest in tomorrow’s game and should the attendance fall short of expectations, then this could mean the end of the line for the International Rules series.
The first sign that the competition could be under serious threat came in 2009 when Australia did not travel to Ireland citing the economic downturn in their country as the reason.
The fact that there were huge crowds at the Tests when they did eventually did come last year secured this year’s series but now the writing is on the wall for a competition that has its admirers and begrudgers in almost equal measure.