Ireland manager Anthony Tohill has flashed a sharp warning to his side as they prepare to depart at the weekend for the two-Test International Rules series against Australia.
“There may be a perception that because only about four of the Australian squad have experience of the actual International Rules their team could be vulnerable but we will be competing against top-class athletes who I feel will adapt very comfortably to the environment in which they will find themselves,” insists Tohill.
Having already declared himself well satisfied with Ireland’s preparations, Tohill will lead his side into battle conscious that their bid to regain the coveted Cormac McAnallen trophy will be launched against the backdrop of a higher competition profile.
“We obviously want to make up for last year when we lost the series at home but I have no doubt that the commitment which the Ireland players have shown to date in training augers very well for our prospects,” adds Tohill.
“Nonetheless the Australians will be at home and they will be keen to maximise this advantage particularly as we know they are very keen to hold onto the trophy.”
The first Test in Melbourne on Friday week is already creating huge interest while the second Test at Gold Coast, Queensland on November 4 is generating considerable enthusiasm in an area not noted for hosting major sporting events.
Having confirmed 22 out of the 23 players who will comprise his touring party, Tohill is expected to unveil the identity of the last player today.
He has been keeping his options open in some respects as he awaits more details on the ongoing involvement of some players in their respective championships.
It is believed that Kerry ace Darran O’Sullivan may not now be going while there is still considerable doubt about the availability of the captain Stephen Cluxton.
“We will monitor things this week and see how we go. Players obviously have very strong club loyalties and we must respect this,” says Tohill.
And the indications are that Ulster could be strongly represented in the Ireland starting team for the first Test.
Joe McMahon has been in superb form for St Enda’s, Omagh lately; Kevin McKernan gave a man of the match performance for Burren against Clonduff in the Down final last Saturday night and Armagh veteran Steven McDonnell is straining at the leash to see the Irish overturn last year’s outcome when he was captain.
McMahon, a full-time coaching officer, has fully recovered from a recent car accident and is one of the players who has been particularly impressive in the Ireland training sessions.
Darren Hughes (Monaghan) and vice-captain Ciaran McKeever are likely to be handed roles that will permit them to link defence and attack while Donegal duo Michael Murphy and Neil McGee could also nose their way into Tohill’s initial formation.
The Ulster Council has amended the Ulster Club football championship schedule because of the involvement of some players from participating teams in the International Rules series.
The amended Ulster Club itinerary is: Sunday October 30: Quarter-Finals: St Gall’s (Antrim) v Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh) (Casement Park); Dromore or Clonoe (Tyrone) v Ballinderry (Derry) (Healy Park, Omagh).
Sunday November 13: Quarter-Finals: Glenswilly (Donegal) v Latton (Monaghan) (MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey); Roslea (Fermanagh) v Burren (Down) (Brewster Park, Enniskillen).
Semi-final: St Galls or Crosmagalen Rangers v Dromore or Clonoe or Ballinderry.
Sunday November 20: Semi-final: Glenswilly or Latton v Roslea or Burren.
Sunday November 27: Final.