Tomorrow is D-Day for Ireland manager Anthony Tohill when he will not only confirm the 23 players who will travel to Australia next week for the two International Rules Tests but will also reveal the identity of his captain.
Tohill, who supervised a week-end training camp at Dublin City University, has expressed himself as “very satisfied” with the commitment and attitude of the 31 players who have been chasing places in the touring party.
Indeed, Tohill will in essence be only confirming 21 players tomorrow as Tadgh Kennelly, an All-Ireland medal winner with Kerry in 2009, and Pearce Hanley are already guaranteed their slots as they are fully-fledged Australian Rules professionals.
Competition for places has been fierce and Ireland’s strength and conditioning coach Mike McGurn revealed yesterday that there is a “very palpable desire” within the side to overturn last year’s series result when the Aussies claimed the Cormac McAnallen Cup on the back of victories in Limerick and Croke Park.
Veteran Armagh forward Stephen McDonnell, who led the side last year, is again expected to be given the captain’s armband although Tohill has been keeping his cards close to his chest in this connection.
And the manager has received a boost now that the Ulster Council has confirmed that it will make contingency plans to re-fix Ulster Club championship ties if necessary in order to facilitate selected players going on the trip.
Initially it had been thought that some players might be forced to pull out of the series if selected because of ongoing county and provincial club commitments.
Derry’s Chrissy McCaigue, who has spent the past two years with the Sydney Swans, is the only Ulster player in the squad who is currently playing Australian Rules football.
Donegal trio Michael Murphy, Karl Lacey and Neil McGee along with Down duo Danny Hughes and Kevin McKernan and Monaghan’s Darren Hughes all hope to get the nod from Tohill as do Armagh pair McDonnell and Ciaran McKeever along with Tyrone’s Joe McMahon.