Ireland's international rules squad arrived in Melbourne on Monday evening for a couple of days' preparation before heading to Adelaide for Sunday's first Test in what will be the 20th international series. Manager Joe Kernan will take the panel for a first training session on Tuesday morning.
Ireland are attempting to retain the Cormac McAnallen Cup and win back-to-back series for just the second time when they face Australia in the two-Test series at the Adelaide Oval on 12th November and Domain Stadium in Perth on November 18th.
For only the second time in history there will be no Test in Melbourne, which is currently in the grip of racing fever as the Melbourne Cup, “the Race that Stops a Nation”, is currently receiving saturation coverage in all the newspapers and across the media platforms and takes place on Tuesday, at 3pm local time (4am Irish time).
The Ireland panel are waiting for the arrival of captain, Aidan O’Shea, whose departure was delayed by a wedding last weekend, and Killian Clarke, from Cavan, who has been held up because of issues to do with this passport.
According to the GAA’s director of communications, Alan Milton, it is expected both players will be with the team later on Tuesday.
Going into the 20th series, Ireland have won 10 and the Australians nine, Ireland 21 Tests to Australia’s 17 with two drawn. On points scored, the Irish are also ahead by 2,268 to 2,161 – or a scoring difference of 107, which divides across Ireland’s wins into a five-point average.
Australia have never won a Test match in Adelaide in three attempts, 1986, 1999 and 2001.
The home side has to make changes to their originally announced panel. Great Western Sydney defender Toby Greene is out and the decision was taken to introduce the following players, even though not all are All-Australian winners – which was the original requirement for selection.
Ben Brown and emerging back Robbie Tarrant were added to the country's squad together with Melbourne defender Neville Jetta, who was one of six inclusions announced to the original squad on Thursday. Also called up were Kade Simpson (Carlton), a former Jim Stynes medallist; Luke Shuey (West Coast); and Jack Gunston (Hawthorn).
Port Adelaide’s playmaker Chad Wingard, who played in the 2014 Test in Perth, has said that he believes the superior fitness of the AFL stars will overcome their deficiencies with the round ball.
“We’re professional athletes; they’re amateurs,” he said. “This is our job full-time, so we’ve been hitting the gym. We’re obviously a lot fitter than they are, so we’ve got to use that advantage. If it’s physicality, we’ve got a few big boys to try and push them around and try and win.”
His comments echoed previous ones by AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan last week. “Our guys will play the right style of football, I’m confident of that,” McLachlan told reporters in Adelaide on Wednesday.
“It’s not like the Irish are shrinking violets. There’s a physicality advantage that I think we have. We have to be very legal and very fair about it. We need to be sure we need to exploit that to try and win the game.”
McLachlan said there would be “a significant consequence” if players crossed the line and resorted to illegal tactics.
“We’ve got a team that’s here to play proper football,” he said.
Ireland squad to face Australia in 2017 International Rules series
Niall Morgan (Edendork, Tyrone)
Chris Barrett (Belmullet, Mayo)
Gary Brennan (Clondegad, Clare)
Eoin Cadogan (Douglas, Cork)
Killian Clarke (Shercock, Cavan)
Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers, Kerry)
Kevin Feely (Athy, Kildare)
Paul Geaney (Dingle, Kerry)
Niall Grimley (Madden Rangers, Armagh)
Pearce Hanley (Gold Coast/Ballaghadereen, Mayo)
Brendan Harrison (Aghamore, Mayo)
Conor Mc Manus (Clontibret, Monaghan)
Michael Murphy (Glenswilly, Donegal)
Niall Murphy (Coolera/Strandhill, Sligo)
Paul Murphy (Rathmore, Kerry)
Karl O’Connell (Tyholland, Monaghan)
Aidan O’Shea (Breaffy, Mayo)
Sean Powter (Douglas, Cork)
Niall Sludden (Dromore, Tyrone)
Enda Smith (Boyle, Roscommon)
Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen, Tipperary)
Zach Tuohy (Geelong/Portlaoise, Laois)
Shane Walsh (Kilkerrin/Clonberne, Galway)
Australia squad to face Ireland in International Rules series
Adelaide: Eddie Betts, Rory Laird, Rory Sloane
Brisbane Lions: Dayne Zorko
Carlton: Kade Simpson
Collingwood: Scott Pendlebury
Essendon: Brendon Goddard, Zach Merrett
Fremantle: Nat Fyfe
Geelong: Gary Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood
Hawthorn: Shaun Burgoyne, Jack Gunston
Melbourne: Michael Hibberd, Neville Jetta
North Melbourne: Robbie Tarrant, Ben Brown
Port Adelaide: Travis Boak, Paddy Ryder, Chad Wingard
West Coast Eagles: Luke Shuey