Good news for Ireland as Murphy is ready to face Australia
Captain decides to play a full role in this evening’s first Test despite county final
Ireland captain Michael Murphy and Australia captain Daniel Wells with the Cormac McAnallen Perpetual Cup. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
There was good news for Ireland at yesterday’s press conference for this evening’s first Test of this year’s International Rules series. Speaking in Breffni Park, Cavan, Ireland captain Michael Murphy, who has faced the dilemma of a county final tomorrow with his club Glenswilly, confirmed that he will play a full part in both matches.
“The decision has been made. I am comfortable with that decision. I am just going to go with it now. It is better to be in this position that out of this position I am fortunate enough to represent Ireland,” he said.
“I am also fortunate enough to represent my club. To get the opportunity to play that at this time of year is fantastic. I am just going to try and grasp it and go for it rather than stay back from it.”
There had been speculation that he might play a restricted role this evening so the news is welcome for Ireland manager Paul Earley, as Murphy has been a superb exponent of the international game over the past two series.
A respectable crowd in the region of 20,000 is expected and the hope will be that the series will move to Croke Park next week with its competitive integrity intact and a sense of excitement.
Exclusively indigenous team
For a long time Australia have spoken about choosing smaller, more mobile and skilled players for the varied challenge of the international game but on this occasion that has been done. The decision to select an exclusively indigenous team will have advantages for the visitors in that the team have played together before as the Indigenous All Stars and bring a skill set that is suited to the demands of the internationals.
The best display by any team over the years of the series was the first Test in Perth eight years ago when Kevin Sheedy selected a number of indigenous players, who he believed were suited to implement the relentlessly fast game plan he had devised. Ireland were annihilated and the scoreboard hit 100 for the only time in an international.
At the press conference in Breffni Park yesterday Australia manager Michael O’Loughlin – a veteran of two series, who scored half of his teams’ goals during those Tests – was able to unveil his captain as Daniel Wells, another two-series veteran, who also played in the now defunct under-17 internationals.
He also announced that Ashley McGrath of Brisbane would take over goalkeeping duties, traditionally a poisoned chalice for AFL players who have no equivalent position in their game. Some of them have worked out surprisingly well and others surprisingly badly but you never really know until the first Test.
“We had a bit of goalkeeping practice with the Melbourne Victory (soccer) coach. He said Ash had the skills to fulfil that role. In our practice matches he has already made a couple of great saves. He has taken great confidence from that but he will need plenty of help from the defenders as well. He has prepared himself and steeled himself for an epic battle tomorrow.”
Ireland manager Paul Earley was asked about the difficulties of being the home team given that, as he has previously pointed out, travelling sides have won 75 per cent of the series.
“We have had quite a number of training sessions but we have never had the full squad together until the last couple of days. It is more difficult, there is no doubt about that particularly as we are facing an indigenous team. There is no doubt they will have a greater sense of team and unity because of the background, it’s the first indigenous football team that has represented Australia.”
O’Loughlin was asked about the loss of AFL super star Lance Franklin, who will not be available for the second Test, as he has a wedding to attend.
“One person isn’t going to win this series for us. It has always been about the team. During my playing career that was always the culture I played in and I have tried to instill that in this team.”