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O'Kane hoping Ireland can get up to speed with their shinty foes

By Declan Bogue

Gregory O'Kane, the former Dunloy and Antrim hurler who is Ireland manager for this weekend's Hurling/Shinty International, has warned his players that their Scottish opponents "will hurt" them in what has become a demanding hybrid sport.

"It's physical, it definitely is. If you delay on the ball, they will hurt you," warned O'Kane, who takes the reins of the senior side alongside Galway minor manager Jeff Lynskey.

"What takes us back is the pace of the game. Even the top hurlers are here, such as John McGrath from Tipperary and people like that. TJ Reid was here last year.

"They are playing in the All-Ireland finals year in, year out. But the pace of the Shinty International, where they can just move the ball from back to front literally within seconds, catches us out. We always find the Irish players need 10, 15 minutes to get up to speed with it."

Ireland fly over to Scotland on Friday for the fixture in Inverness' Bught Park the following day at 2pm.

Having been involved in managing the Dunloy seniors for the past couple of seasons, O'Kane believes that the standard of hurling across the board has never been higher.

"I find that at under-age hurling in general, unless we clone hurlers, we are not going to get better," he added.

"They are fit, they are athletes, plus the fact that the skill level is so much better.

"There is so much ball-wall work now and it has never been better.

"Hurling as a game has never been better as everybody has skill now."

Belfast Telegraph

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