Competition and discipline key to success of International Rules series

Paul Earley acknowledges that Compromise Rules has to find way to strike balance between skill and physicality

Irish International Rules team manager Paul Earley. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Irish International Rules team manager Paul Earley. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Thu, Mar 21, 2013, 06:00


It’s not long since the GAA sold the International Rules on the idea there would be no compromise, before that went horribly wrong – discipline breaking down to the dangerous borders of violence, and with that throwing the entire series into doubt.

Now, it’s less about compromising on the rules with the Australian game as it is a delicate balancing act between discipline and skill, and indeed the very appetite for the game. So, after a one-year hiatus designed to renew interest the 2013 series returns to Ireland this October, and yet uncertainties remain – not least the quality of player Australia will select.

What unfolded in Australia in 2011 was largely one-sided, as Ireland ran out convincing winners: new Ireland manager Paul Earley thus takes charge at a time when selling the game may well be harder again, before any issues of indiscipline arise. “I know everybody is talking about the last series when Ireland, won by a record score, 63 or 64 points or whatever,” says Earley, “but traditionally, Australia come with a very strong team, and have won six of the eight series here.

“And you only have to go back to 2004, and 2005, when Australia won both here and in Australia, and they played some fantastic football. One game in Perth they broke 100 points, so things can change very quickly. Now I’d be very disappointed if they don’t, but I expect that they would.”

The former Roscommon player has also confirmed his backroom team of Séamus McCarthy (Tipperary), Ciarán Whelan (Dublin) and Tony Scullion (Derry), with former Cavan footballer Nicholas Walsh – based in the AFL – taking the role of conditioning coach. Ireland will face Australia in Breffni Park, Cavan, on October 19th, the second Test taking place at Croke Park seven days later – both games under floodlights.

Earley, also a former AFL player, is acutely aware of the need to find that balance between skill and physicality. “All it takes is one incident and it could flare up again, so you could never be fully confident. But I think the last couple of Series were played in a better spirit and I think also the Australian game has developed interestingly in the last few years. It has become a more sanitised game. There aren’t as many of the big hits. So there has been a cultural shift over there as well and I would hope that that would manifest in the game being played in the right spirit.”