O'Kane is relishing a second bite at Scotland
Former Antrim hurler Gregory O'Kane has faced up to numerous tough tests as a player but he sees his role as joint manager of the Ireland team for the Hurling/Shinty International against Scotland at Croke Park today (4.35pm) as "a particularly massive mission".
Along with this year's All-Ireland-winning Galway minor boss Jeffery Lynskey, O'Kane has absorbed lessons from the Irish side's 3-15 to 2-8 defeat in the first game in Inverness a fortnight ago and is keeping his fingers crossed today.
"We lost Maurice Shanahan and Neal McAuley just before we took on the Scots last time," explained O'Kane. "I think we will be better prepared and obviously we are keen to win on home soil. With the likes of TJ Reid in our side, there is optimism that we can put on a better display. But this is still a massive mission for us."
Reid, a five-star performer with Kilkenny in their surge to yet another All-Ireland title in September, has since been named Hurler of the Year and will almost certainly bring his scoring expertise into play.
Clare's David McInerney, an All-Ireland winner two years ago, is another vastly experienced campaigner in the Irish line-up which will be captained by Laois player Matthew Whelan.
"It's important that we take our chances. I think this match will be a bit like a cup final," added O'Kane.
The format for the series has changed from last year in that the two Tests are stand-alone games this time around with the two-legged aggregate scoring concept dispensed with.
Scotland head coach Ronald Ross, though, concedes that his team's task is difficult.
"Ireland will be a different beast this time around," declared Ross. "They have quality players. They'll be very keen to win in Croke Park."
Ireland squad: E Kelly (Laois), M Burke (Meath), B Deay (Kildare), P Divilly (Kildare), D Healy (Meath), Z Keenan (Laois), S Maloney (Galway), N McAuley (Antrim), D McInerney (Clare), D McNicholas (Westmeath),
B Murphy (Kerry), P Kelly (Kerry), S Nolan (Kerry), T J Reid (Kilkenny), E Price (Westmeath), P Maher (Tipperary), J Togher (Meath), M Whelan (Laois, capt).