Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

We will rule Aussies in International Rules, says Scullion

Launch of the International Rules Series, Croke Park, Dublin 20/3/2013. From left to right, selector Seamus McCarthy, Irish International Rules team manager Paul Earley, selector Tony Scullion and GAA President Liam O'Neill

Former Derry All-Ireland winner Tony Scullion, who has just been confirmed as a member of manager Paul Earley's backroom team for this year's International Rules series, firmly believes that Ireland can repeat their 2011 triumph over Australia.

Scullion, the current Ulster Council's Coaching Development Officer, brings considerable experience to the table as plans are made to conduct an extensive trawl of players over the coming months prior to the squad being announced.

It was Scullion's Derry colleague Anthony Tohill who masterminded the 2011 coup when the Irish humbled the Aussies on their own soil on an aggregate scoreline of 130-65 – the highest victory recorded in all of the thirteen series which have been played to date.

Now Scullion, who won an All-Ireland medal in 1993 that goes with the three National League honours he gained in 1992, '95 and '96, is convinced that Earley's commitment, passion and pride in the job will help him take his country to another success.

"I am delighted to be part of the management team and I am certainly looking forward to the challenge of working with some of the finest players in this country," reveals Scullion.

"The players consider it a huge honour to pull on the green jersey and we will be doing everything possible to ensure that they are in the best possible condition in every respect to mount their challenge."

While Tohill was at the helm of operations in 2011, current Armagh skipper Ciaran McKeever was vice-captain and in Australia he found himself thrust into the media spotlight when the Rules team captain Stephen Cluxton, the Dublin goalkeeper, refused to conduct interviews.

On current form, McKeever is one of a number of Ulster players with previous experience of Rules football who are likely to be in the selection frame again.

Joe McMahon (Tyrone), Neil McGee (Donegal), Darren Hughes (Monaghan) and Kevin McKernan (Down) are others who will come under the microscope over the summer months as Earley and his selectors, who also include Seamus McCarthy (Tipperary) and Ciarán Whelan (Dublin) get down to business.

Scullion, who has been assistant to Ulster team manager Joe Kernan as the province continues its dominance of the Railwaay Cup, suggests that a number of new faces could surface too.

"There is a lot of exciting young talent in several counties right now and I have no doubt that they will come under scrutiny," says the Ballinascreen clubman.

Indeed he formerly managed his club and also had spells in charge of Kildress and Eglish. He won Ulster championship medals with Derry in 1987 and 1993 and also garnered four Allstars – testament to his consistency as a top-class defender.

Four years ago Sean Cavanagh, Tyrone's triple All-Ireland winning midfield ace, skippered the Rules side when Meath's Sean Boyland was manager and there is the possibility that Earley might just choose his team leader from the province.

Ireland will host the Aussies in the first Test at Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan on October 19 with the second Test in Croke Park on October 26 and GAA officials are hopeful that the fans will turn up in big numbers – something that did not happen in the 2011 series Down Under.

While Scullion provides an Ulster flavour to the management team, the province also contributes High Performance and conditioning coach Nicholas Walsh from Cavan who represented his country in the 2002 Rules series.

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