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International Rules series reignites club-country conflict

Ireland manager Joe Kernan faces task recruiting All-Ireland winners for Australia

Ireland’s Sean Cavanagh in action against Jackson Geary of Victoria Football League in Melbourne in 2014. Cavanagh is club-tied with Moy this year. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

The club-versus-country conflict will continue for at least a couple of more weeks as Joe Kernan looks to select his strongest possible side for next month’s International Rules series with Australia. 

The Ireland manager had invited in “seven or eight” of Dublin’s All-Ireland winners, including footballer of the year candidate James McCarthy. In helping Ballymun Kickhams beat St Brigid’s in the county quarter-final over the weekend, however, McCarthy is club-tied until at least Saturday week. 

Ballymun will face Kilmacud Crokes, while the other Dublin semi-final will see champions St Vincent’s face St Jude’s; both semi-finals will be played on Saturday October 14th. 

Also asked in was Dublin’s Con O’Callaghan, who may take up the invite after his club Cuala lost their quarter-final to St Jude’s, despite the young star scoring 0-4. “With Con O’Callaghan, people would say, ‘Has he enough experience?’” said Kernan. “Of course he has. He’s a class act but he has football and hurling to contend with, with his club, so it just mightn’t suit.” 

The 2017 series, back after a one-year hiatus, will see 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. 

Club duty

Also held up in club duty is former Ireland captain Seán Cavanagh, still one of Kernan’s first-choice players despite his recent retirement from the county game. 

Cavanagh’s club, Moy, have now reached the Tyrone intermediate championship final against Derrylaughan, and if they win the title next weekend, they will go on to represent the county in the Ulster Club Championship.This also keeps his brother Colm out of making any commitment to the Ireland team. 

“I said to Joe I would see how things go with the club, and things are progressing rather well,” said Cavanagh. “It is going to be tough. So it may be difficult to commit if the run keeps going, but we’ll just take it week by week at this stage.”

“The International Rules is something I’ve always loved doing, but there’s certain priorities. I had a fire in the business this week, and my wife is heavily pregnant at this stage, so there’s lots of things happening in my life at the moment.”

Senior promotion

Cavanagh captained Ireland to series success over the Australians in 2008, but for now his commitment remains firmly with his club, who can gain senior promotion if they win the intermediate final. “It’s been a long time since we were in a county final. We’re there now and we’ll look forward to Derrylaughan. We lost it in ’08, so this is my second chance at a final with the Moy. There’ll be a good buzz around the town this week.”

Kernan admitted last week the club-versus-country conflict was far from ideal: Australia can get to pick from all their top players as the series comes in their off-season.

“The ideal situation is that you train together for five or six weeks, you have the boys one night a week, on the Friday night. If somebody has a match on a Sunday we don’t kill them with four quarters, we only give them a quarter or two quarters so we’re working with them, but they still have to be there.

“In fairness to the clubs they’re saying, ‘boys, we don’t want you to go there,’ so that’s hard on them, but I must say, on a whole, most of them are able to make the commitment.”