Ireland manager Sean Boylan may have his strategy very much in focus for tomorrow’s second International Rules Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but he is undecided in relation to the composition of his starting line-up.
With Finian Hanley (Galway), Kieran Donaghy and Aidan O’Mahony (both Kerry), Brendan Coulter (Down) and Leighton Glynn (Wicklow) still recovering from injury, Boylan is keeping his cards close to his chest.
Yet even though he is facing selection posers, the Ireland boss has already indicated that the three players who were not involved in any way in the first Test - Paul Finlay (Monaghan), Killian Young (Kerry) and Martin McGrath (Fermanagh) - may still not get any game time tomorrow.
What is certain, though, is that Boylan will look for greater finishing power from his attack.
Even though the Irish scored three goals last Friday through Leighton Glynn (Wicklow), Sean Cavanagh (Tryrone) and Steven McDonnell (Armagh), Boylan was disappointed by the lack of overs recorded.
“From a gaelic football perspective, we should have been able to get more three-pointers,” says Boylan, “Hopefully, we can improve on this tomorrow.”
Down’s Benny Coulter along with McDonnell and Glynn are certain to be given key roles in attack again with Boylan anxious that the former duo employ their Rules experience to much greater effect. Glynn has been a revelation to date and is revelling in the cut and thrust of Rules action.
Defensively, Ireland looked relatively sound in Perth with newcomer Ciaran McKeever (Armagh) and Westmeath’s John Keane turning in good performances.
But the manner in which some Australian players, notably Mark Murphy and Jarryd Brennan, were able to take scores clearly dscomfited the Irish on occasions.
And had the host team not missed an early penalty, the outcome of the contest might well have been rather different.
Campbell Brown, Scott Thompson and captain Brent Harvey are among the experienced brigade in the host side who could ask big questions of the Irish tomorrow.
Harvey was not as influential as he can be in the opening Test while Thompson, although he snapped up some scores, is capable of wreaking rather more havoc on opponents.
Aussie coach Mick Malthouse has already made it plain that he expects a step-up in performance from his side.
“Our ball-handling skills were not as consistent in the first game as I would have liked. We have been working on things in training this week and I think we will see an improvement tomorrow,” he predicts.
It was after trailing by thirteen points in the third quarter that Australia hit back strongly in the final segment of the match to trim Ireland’s winning margin to a solitary point.
And that was certainly much too close for comfort from the visitors’ perspective, according to Ireland skipper Sean Cavanagh.
“I thought we lost our shape and maybe our concentration in the last quarter and we almost came unstuck. But we had put in a big effort and we always knew that Australia would come back at us. I think we have absorbed lessons from the first match,” says Cavanagh who scored thirteen points in all in the first Testay.
Ireland goalkeeper David Gallagher had an impressive outing in Perth, making two spectacular saves and showing assured handling throughout.
A similar display from the Meath man tomorrow - a controversial choice initially - will certainly help to bolster Ireland’s prospects of success..