When Ireland claimed the International Rules series in Australia two years ago Sean Cavanagh was their inspirational skipper.
And it was a particularly proud and poignant moment for the Tyrone All Ireland winning star to take delivery of the Cormac McAnallen trophy following his side’s victory in the second Test.
He had played alongside Cormac in the Tyrone side prior to the latter’s untimely death six years ago and is now particularly keen to see the Irish retain the silverware when they confront the Aussies in Saturday’s second Test at Croke Park.
“Obviously Cormac was a very special person and we were all delighted when the International Rules trophy was dedicated to his memory,” says Cavanagh.
“He proved a great leader in the Tyrone side and I would hope that we can produce a performance on Saturday that will do justice to the occasion.”
In last Saturday’s first Test, Cavanagh was not as prolific as he can be but now with manager Anthony Tohill summoning a much greater effort from the Irish players the expectation is that the team as a whole will rise to the occasion.
But Australia’s desire to reclaim the trophy has intensified now that they have drawn first blood in the series.
Their manager Mick Malthouse, while acknowledging that Ireland are capable of a much better performance his time round, nonetheless contends that his own players have much more in the tank.
“While we were happy to take the win last Saturday I think that we learned lessons from the game,” says Malthouse.
“Some of our shooting was not good and we took wrong options now and again. But I thought we functioned well as a team and that gives us confidence going into this next meeting.”
And his assistant Andrew Lappin, a former high-profile Rules player, believes that the negative media coverage to which Ireland have been subjected will actually act as a spur for this Saturday’s match.
“They will certainly have been feeling the heat through the media and they will want to respond to that,” says Lappin.
“We would expect the Irish management to freshen things up — if we were we in their position that’s what we would be doing.”
Stevie McDonnell will lead Ireland on his Captain’s Run tomorrow morning after which it is expected that manager Anthony Tohill will unveil his blueprint for the game — a game that his side must win by a minimum of eight points if they are to have any chance of retaining the trophy.