Aidan O’Shea to captain Ireland in International Rules series
But no Dublin players available to travel to the two-Test series in Australia
Joe Kernan: “The beauty of this series is that there are players who are going to come out of the woodwork that you would not have thought of.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Beaten All-Ireland football finalists Mayo will have the strongest representation on the Irish team for next month’s International Rules series with Australia, Aidan O’Shea set to captain the side alongside team-mates Brendan Harrison and Chris Barrett.
It is expected, however, that three-time All-Ireland champions Dublin will have no representation, a combination of club commitments, injury and lack of interest ruling out all of Jim Gavin’s players who might otherwise have been selected.
Ireland manager Joe Kernan will today announce his travelling 23-man panel, who will look to defend the narrow series win over Australia in Croke Park two years ago. This year reverts to a two-Test series, the opening game taking place on Sunday, November 12th at the Adelaide Oval, and the deciding test the following Saturday night, November 18th, at the Domain Stadium in Perth in what will be the final game held in that venue.
O’Shea has been part of the last three series in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and will take over the Irish captaincy from Dublin’s Bernard Brogan. Mayo defenders Harrison and Barrett will be making their first appearance, although Lee Keegan, who was Ireland vice-captain in 2015, had been ruled out with a hip injury.
Monaghan’s Conor McManus, also part of the last three Irish squads, is expected to be named as vice-captain.
Also already assured of their place are the three AFL-based Irish players, Zach Tuohy from Laois (Geelong), Pearce Hanley from Mayo (Gold Coast) and Tyrone’s Conor McKenna (Essendon).
Diarmuid Connolly, James McCarthy and Con O’Callaghan were among the Dublin players Kernan had originally hoped to have on board, but all have pulled out due to club commitments, all still involved with their clubs in the Dublin football and hurling finals this weekend.
Brogan, along with Jack McCaffrey, Philly McMahon, Rory O’Carroll and Connolly were all part of the squad for the last series in Croke Park two years ago. Speaking before about the unavailability of the All-Ireland champions, Kernan said: “In fairness to them, they’re after having a busy season, they still have club matches . . . and two or three said no because of work commitments.
“But the beauty of this series is that there are players who are going to come out of the woodwork that you would not have thought of, like Gary Brennan a couple of years ago who was absolutely brilliant for us. A few other boys there, Brendan Murphy from Carlow is in and he did extremely well.”
Ireland selector Dermot Earley told this newspaper last week: “Look, we’ve had great engagement [with Dublin] and I think you do have to understand as well that after a long year guys do sometimes need a break and this may not suit them. That’s understandable.”
Kernan has also described the three qualities he’s looking for in a player as being “mobile, pace and good kicking ability”. Roscommon’s Enda Smith has also been pressing hard for selection, although Donegal’s Ryan McHugh indicated earlier this week that he didn’t make the cut.
O’Shea, however, is clearly up for the task, showing no lingering hangover from last month’s All-Ireland defeat: “Nine or 10 [Mayo] lads were asked but between different commitments, injury, rehab and recovery, weddings, everything that needs to be done after the season, it didn’t suit everybody’s schedule,” he told The Western People.
“It’s great to have the two boys involved, it’s their first experience of it and it’s great for them to get out and play against the Aussies. It makes it a lot more competitive now that they [Australia] are playing their best players compared to the first few series I played in.”
The GAA have secured a new one-year sponsorship deal with EirGrid for the November Tests in Australia, although in keeping with the enduring uncertainty of the series it hasn’t gone beyond that.
The AFL have confirmed that Geelong coach Chris Scott, who was assistant coach under Alastair Clarkson in the 2015 IRS, will be their head coach for the 2017 Tests. Australia won the 2014 series, 56-46, which was also a one-game series; in 2015, Ireland won 56-52.