Club comes first again as Aidan O’Shea opts out of second International Rules Test

Midfielder to play with Breaffy in Mayo final but McKeever available for Croke Park encounter

Australia’s Eddie Betts is tackled by Aidan O’Shea of Ireland during the first International Rules Test in Breffni Park, Cavan, last Saturday. O’Shea will miss Saturday’s second Test as he will be playing in the Mayo county final with Breaffy. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Australia’s Eddie Betts is tackled by Aidan O’Shea of Ireland during the first International Rules Test in Breffni Park, Cavan, last Saturday. O’Shea will miss Saturday’s second Test as he will be playing in the Mayo county final with Breaffy. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 01:00

Once again the club versus country conflict has forced Ireland manager Paul Earley to revise his 23-man match panel for Saturday’s second International Rules Test with Australia.

As expected, Mayo midfielder Aidan O’Shea has opted to play for his club, Breaffy, who contest a first county final on Sunday. However, Armagh’s Ciarán McKeever rejoins the panel after missing last Saturday’s first Test to concentrate on his county final, his St Patrick’s side losing to Crossmaglen.

Earley has also called up Kildare veteran Johnny Doyle to replace Galway’s Finian Hanley, who sustained a hamstring tear last Saturday night.

Otherwise the panel is unchanged, with Cork’s Aidan Walsh available despite injuring his knee last Saturday, scans show the Ireland vice-captain suffered bruising to the bone but no ligament damage

Speaking at an International Rules media event in Croke Park yesterday, Colm Begley of Laois said the GAA needed to find a better way of accommodating the club versus country issue, especially as the series struggles for survival.

“I think if the GAA really want this to work, and that includes the county boards, they should give everyone every opportunity to be part of it,” said Begley. “I know with club football you don’t want to go too late but realistically it is two weeks.

“I think a game can be postponed. Because for me, to pull on an Irish jersey, and for any of the players, and I’ve been playing with them the last few weeks, it’s a very, very special moment.

“If Ciarán McKeever felt it was affecting his club and he didn’t want to postpone it then that’s his choice. You saw with Michael Murphy, it is a very tough spot to be in, even though that freak of a man got man of the match the next day.

Every opportunity
“I just think players should be given every opportunity to represent their country. If it is a county final, surely they can put it back two weeks?

While Begley also spoke about the need to restore some proper physicality to the hybrid game, he also believes the rules can be further amended to make for a free-flowing game.

“The four hand passes do help us. They move that ball very, very fast through the hands. It’s something they naturally do in the AFL. Maybe if they were to increase the hand passes a small bit.

“The rules have been balanced out in a lot of ways. We understand with the round ball we have a lot of advantage in that case but with the tackling, it’s always been the case that we’ve been found wanting in some ways. Maybe it’s something they have to look at, just change a few rules and adapt them some way.

“But players are getting smarter and cleverer and getting rid of the ball faster . . . delivering the ball faster. Both games now, even the Australian game, are faster. And, our strength has come up too. So it’s a level ground in that regard.”

Despite Ireland’s seemingly unassailable advantage, 57-35, Begley believes the Australians will present a far greater challenge in Croke Park on Saturday, even if they are only playing for pride.

Very disappointed
“I know from talking to Mick O’Loughin, their manager, and Tadhg (Kennelly), they were very disappointed with the performance. They will be pushing their players very, very hard to come back. There is a tendency that they adapt and they will definitely get better. There is no doubt about that. We have to improve in certain areas and so do they.”

Elsewhere, the Waterford county executive are poised to approve Derek McGrath as Waterford senior hurling manager this evening. McGrath has been given the endorsement of the selection sub-committee appointed to recommend a candidate to succeed Michael Ryan.

McGrath came to prominence when coaching De La Salle College to successive All-Ireland colleges titles, in 2007 and 2008, and he guided the De La Salle club to a Waterford senior title in 2012. It has been reported that McGrath’s backroom team will include 2007 hurler of the year Dan Shanahan and William Maher, who managed the Tipperary minors to last year’s All-Ireland.

Meanwhile, Colm Collins was last night ratified as new Clare football manager on a three-year term. It was also agreed to extend All-Ireland winning manager Davy Fitzgerald’s term as hurling manager for a further three years, along with his backroom team.