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International Rules: Tohill in backing for silent skipper

By John Campbell

Silence remains golden for Ireland captain Stephen Cluxton, who will have the blessing of the team management as he goes through the International Rules series in Melbourne and Gold Coast without uttering a single word to the media or at functions.

It's a most unusual stance by any captain, especially at international level, but Cluxton's vow of silence was confirmed by team manager Anthony Tohill yesterday.

Tohill went on to claim that the Irish public would understand Cluxton's position, even if the Australians might consider it strange.

“I don't think it will strike the Irish people as odd because of the status he has within the GAA and the season he's had with Dublin. It's now commonly known that Stephen deals with the media in his own way,” said Tohill.

“They may find it odd here in the AFL that someone would choose to do that but Stephen is an amateur footballer and is within his rights to deal with those things in the way that he does.

“As far as we're concerned we're very pleased with him and believe he's the right man to captain the team. He does his talking in the dressing-room, on the training pitch and in game situations.

“That's what we want from him. Ability to talk to media wasn't one of our primary considerations.”

Vice-captain Ciaran McKeever (Armagh) is expected to fulfil the interview commitments.

The Irish squad had an intense work-out in familiar conditions at the Whitten Oval yesterday morning as heavy rain cascaded down from a dark Melbourne sky.

“We certainly weren't expecting the weather we had this morning, but we had a lively session, getting fellas into game mode and getting focused,” said Tohill.

Whereas the Australians will play a warm-up game today, Ireland will go straight into Friday's first Test in the Etihad Stadium off training-ground work only.

They played a Victoria Amateur Football selection in Croke Park last week and Tohill believes another warm-up game is unnecessary.

“If we'd played that match this week it would have been very difficult to turn round any injuries if

they occurred. It was important to play a game, yes, but it was better to have it before we left,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tohill and strength and conditioning coach Mike McGurn have hailed the contribution that Kieran McGeeney in particular is making in the build-up to Friday’s Test.

“In the squad sessions we had in Dublin before we left for Australia, Kieran quickly established a rapport with the players and it is very clear that they are responding positively to him,” says McGurn.

“He certainly knows what he is talking about and his message is being got across very effectively. This is just the kind of preparation the boys need for what is a very difficult task.”

“Everyone is very much up for the challenge now that the vast majority of the players are already here and they are setting their sights on a win.

“Kieran McGeeney is a born winner and he is very passionate about Ireland succeeding out here. You can see that the players are ready to push themselves to the limit,” states McGurn.

Manager Tohill has already taken on board the fact that Australia will play a running game and he will make his plans accordingly.

He supervised a training session at Whitten Oval, home of the Western Bulldogs, yesterday when the Ireland players were put through their paces with Galway full-back Finian Hanley expected to become the last player to link up with the squad.

“We know the Aussies are all very good athletes and that they will want to use the whole pitch and stretch us. We must be ready for this,” says Tohill.

Belfast Telegraph


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