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Tyrone duo can fire up Ireland for challenge Down Under

 

By John Campbell

Tyrone duo Niall Morgan and Niall Sludden are among six Ulster players included in the provisional panel selected by Ireland manager Joe Kernan to travel to Australia for the two International Rules Tests next month.

Monaghan pair Conor McManus and Karl O'Connell, along with Donegal's Michael Murphy and Cavan skipper Killian Clarke complete the Ulster contingent.

The unavailability of a number of players from throughout the country for different reasons meant that Kernan had to dig a little deeper into the seam of talent at his disposal and he has also named four other Ulstermen in his list of stand-by players.

Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone) and Niall Grimley (Armagh), along with Down duo Connaire Harrison and Caolan Mooney are the players who could yet be on the plane to Australia where Ireland will face their hosts in Adelaide on November 12 and Perth on November 18.

The inclusion of Grimley and Harrison in particular is viewed as a further endorsement of two emerging players who illuminated the championship season.

Grimley proved an influential force at midfield for Armagh until they were knocked out of the All-Ireland quarter-finals by a rampant Tyrone side while Harrison was a revelation at full-forward for Down, reserving his best display for the Ulster championship semi-final in which he gave a masterly performance against Monaghan's highly-rated full-back Drew Wylie.

Monaghan gained a measure of revenge by reversing the decision when the sides subsequently met in the All-Ireland series but Harrison clearly did enough to cement his growing reputation as one of the best forwards in the country.

Mooney, too, impressed in Down's colours in both league and championship and, having gained a first-hand insight into Australian Rules football, he could yet find himself in a position where he will be able to bring something to the table for the Ireland team.

Indeed, there remains a strong possibility that Kernan may have to call on some of his stand-by players which could see Ulster's representation in the actual team enhanced.

Mayo strongman Aidan O'Shea will captain the side with Monaghan's McManus named as vice-captain.

In all, 14 counties are represented in the 21-strong panel with Mayo leading the contingent with four players and Kerry next with three.

Dublin players are conspicuous by their absence, however.

Armagh legend Kernan - whose backroom team includes Darragh Ó Sé, Pádraic Joyce and Dermot Earley - states: "I would like to acknowledge the hard work and commitment not only of those selected but also that of all the players who underwent trials and trained with us from the outset.

"Everyone involved is enthused by the prospect of representing Ireland and we are fully aware of the enormity of the challenge involved in trying to retain the Cormac McAnallen Cup won against Australia at Croke Park two years ago," added Kernan who led Armagh to the 2002 All-Ireland title.

Ireland Squad: N Morgan (Tyrone), C Barrett (Mayo), G Brennan (Clare), E Cadogan (Cork), K Clarke (Cavan), P Crowley (Kerry), K Feely (Kildare), P Geaney (Kerry), P Hanley (Gold Coast/Mayo), B Harrison (Mayo), C McManus (Monaghan), M Murphy (Donegal), N Murphy (Sligo), P Murphy (Kerry), K O'Connell (Monaghan), A O'Shea (Mayo), N Sludden (Tyrone), E Smith (Roscommon), C Sweeney (Tipperary), Z Tuohy (Geelong/Laois), S Walsh (Galway). Stand-By Players: M Donnelly ( Tyrone), N Grimley (Armagh), C Harrison (Down), C Mooney (Down), S Murphy (Carlow), B Murphy (Carlow), S Powter (Cork).

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