Kernan unveils an inexperienced panel for trip to Australia
Ireland include just eight players with previous experience for Test series Down Under
At the announcement of the travelling party for the two Tests in Adelaide and Perth, on November 12th and 18th respectively, the former All-Ireland winner with Armagh said the team would try to impose their kicking game.
“We are going man to man,” he said. “There’s no marking spaces. We are going to win the ball and we’re going to get it up as quick as possible. Some of the football in the first two quarters the last time, I thought we played some absolutely brilliant stuff – our passing and the skills we showed.
“One of the skills we have been working on is the ball on the ground. We’ve been working on that, that we can palm the ball to the ground without being pulled down.
“Michael Murphy is just an animal at that and Aidan [O’Shea] scored a great goal two years ago doing that. It’s a skill that they are not as good at. The one problem we had: they were able to find the pockets and pop a ball into somebody on the D – 17 times I think they got it into there but luckily enough they didn’t have their shooting boots.”
Asked about the choice of Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea as captain, he also revealed he had intended making a change regardless of whether Bernard Brogan, who led the victorious 2015 team, was available.
“I was going to change the captain even if Bernard had have come. I think it is a great honour. I was going to pass it. Aidan is a leader. He has proved that over this last few years and I think it’s a great honour to give it to him.”
Vice-captain will be Monaghan’s Conor McManus, who has been Ireland’s top scorer in the past two internationals, the one-Test series of 2014 and 2015.
Unusually – as Ireland have tended to have greater continuity – there is little to choose between the panels in terms of experience.
The AFL selection features eight players who have appeared previously whereas Kernan’s list contains the same number although at the weekend he will be naming replacements for the injured Conor McKenna, the speedy Tyrone man who plays in the AFL with Essendon, and club-tied Paul Kerrigan, who won another Cork county title with Nemo Rangers last weekend.
The eight previously capped Ireland players are Tyrone goalkeeper, Niall Morgan, Clare’s Gary Brennan, whose high catches in the final quarter two years ago helped to ensure victory, Eoin Cadogan from Cork, O’Shea and fellow Mayo man Pearse Hanley, who plays in the AFL with Gold Coast, McManus, Murphy and the other AFL footballer Carlton’s Zach Tuohy, from Laois.
Kernan gave further detail about the absence of Dublin players – the first time an Ireland panel has had no representatives of the All-Ireland champions involved.
“I approached 10 Dublin players. A lot of them had club commitments, some hurling and football. All we asked was that they come on a Friday night and play one quarter but in fairness the clubs come first.
“The sacrifices those boys have made over this last three years, the time they took off work – one or two had to take time off to deal with injuries – and now they had their clubs. It was practically impossible for them to commit so while it’s disappointing – they’re also going away on a holiday in January – people have to earn a living and employers can only take so much.”
The panel were put through their paces in Croke Park on Wednesday evening and will depart the weekend after next.