Joe Kernan: Ireland need to make strong start against Aussies

Ireland coach wants to avoid what happened in last year’s International Rules Test

Joe Kernan: “They blew us out of the water last year, they will be wanting to do the same here again, and that’s what we have to be ready for.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The difficulties for this evening's one-off EirGrid International Rules Test could be seen and heard at Friday's media conference when all the points of reference related to last year's event in Perth when, after a disastrous start, Ireland were unable to get back to the table despite a much improved second half.

It makes the game one big roll of the dice: no time to learn on the job so it's no wonder Ireland manager Joe Kernan has watched carefully what happened a year ago.

“Starting off this game is going to be high tempo early on,” he said, “and we want to have everybody tuned in and if it does take off at 100 miles per hour, that we are able to cope with that, to stay with them.

“They blew us out of the water last year, they will be wanting to do the same here again, and that’s what we have to be ready for.


“Every man has a job to do and if they are not doing that job, then they are whipped off. It’s very easy with the information we have in our hands now that if somebody isn’t working hard, we can see that.”

Second test

The one-Test series may be a thing of the past, as both coaches, Alastair Clarkson as well as Kernan, indicated that they were open to a second test and the Ireland manager said that he expected that to materialise for next year's series in Australia when talks between the GAA and AFL conclude on the future of the game.

Kernan has a decent-looking team, which provides mobility, pace and strong finishing potential in the combination of captain Bernard Brogan and Conor McManus but Australia are a high-quality and experienced line-up.

It’s impossible to say how teams will click on the night but one troubling thought for the home team will be that they aren’t as well equipped in the one area that proved an unqualified success last year.

The introduction of the kick-out rule that requires the ball to travel to the 45, places huge responsibilities on the goalkeeper and centrefield receivers. Twelve months ago in Perth then Ireland manager Paul Earley took the unusual step of bringing two goalkeepers and although the belief was that Niall Morgan would get the place it went instead to Paddy O’Rourke, who acquitted himself well.

Morgan is a great kicker on his day but his last appearance in Croke Park, the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry, showed that his restarts can sometimes go haywire. Word is however that he’s kicking well in training and the hope will be he does himself justice.

The second part of the equation in the 2014 Test was the form of David Moran, who defied apprehensions that Ireland would struggle with the new rule by giving a commanding performance in the air.

Moran is injured and although there are a number of mobile centrefielders like John O'Loughlin, Matthew Donnelly and Paul Cribbin, fielding could be a problem against a side with six outfield players 6ft 4in or over as opposed to the home side's one – which will place a heavy burden on Aidan O'Shea, assuming he mans a midfield berth.

Most impressive

Steve Johnson, Chad Wingard and Nick Riewoldt were the most impressive scorers for Australia last year and only the latter is playing this time but his ability to take attacking marks is awesome.

Ireland failed last time in the supposed national speciality of kicking scores when the chances arise; their wides’ total was eight to Australia’s three, which is mind blowing given the charitable definition of a wide in internationals.

Kernan’s priorities in that context make sense.

“If we can kick the ball the way we should be able to, and we have worked on it hard over the last 12 weeks, hopefully that will help us get out of trouble and change the play.

"We have to work harder than the Australians tomorrow to win this. You're not going to win it on speed or skill; you have to work hard . . we have to come off knowing that we emptied the tank." A crowd of around 40,000 is expected. Tickets are priced€5 for adults and €5 for under-16s and are available from, selected SuperValu and Centra stores and usual match-day outlets.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times