Ireland's bad organisation laid bare by game tourists
One of the most common formulations concerning International Rules is that it pits our plucky amateurs against the big-time pros of Australian football. This is said to impact on fitness levels, particularly in the last quarter, and the ability to prepare for the international series. Yet a year ago in Australia, Ireland seemed to manage these inadequacies quite well.
Yesterday, embarrassingly before a record Irish attendance of 57,289 - a section of the new Hogan stand had to be opened to cater for crowds outside Hill I6 trying to gain admittance - the truth of the matter emerged. It's actually our amateur levels of organisation and co-ordination which make the difference. The hugely disruptive timing of the All-Ireland replay has already been noted, but this weekend, an even greater shambles became clear.
With a big injury list already to contend with, Ireland's unavailability problem worsened at the weekend with the news that Kildare's Glenn Ryan and Dublin's Ciaran Whelan had sustained injuries in club matches and been ruled out.
"We didn't perform with what players we had," was Ireland manager Brian McEniff's verdict. "But it's hard to lose players of the calibre of Glenn Ryan and Ciaran Whelan, two very good players. It's very hard on the day before to get that hammer blow. Psychologically, it put a damper on the team much more than I thought."
Asked would he like to see changes in the preparation for next year's series, even natural caution couldn't quite defuse his response. "I wouldn't even like to comment on that. We need to get a wee bit of latitude with the players to get them together and prepare in a way we need to to take on professional athletes."
Seamus Moynihan returned to the team after a week celebrating Kerry's All-Ireland victory. His value to the side was again obvious as he played all around the field in a vain attempt to inject some vigour into the team.
All week his intentions concerning the international were wrapped in mystery and, as late as Saturday, some sources in the county were adamant that the Kerry captain wouldn't be in a position to play.
"I made the decision to play on Wednesday and told Johnno (O'Keeffe, Kerry and Ireland trainer). I found getting used to it again very hard. I'm sorry for the fellas who've been preparing all summer. It's disappointing but the way I see it, we're still 21 up in this and we're going back next year."
He wasn't mincing his words about the loss of players to club activity.
"We were missing key players: Glenn Ryan, who had to play a bloody game yesterday. Ciaran Whelan had to play a relegation game which wouldn't be called off. We were missing Ja Fallon, Michael Donnellan and John McDermott with injuries.
"Then you see Glenn Ryan and Ciaran Whelan in the prime of their health and they can't get a bloody game called off the night before. You've amateurs playing professionals and the amateurs are playing a game the night before. It could only happen in Ireland."
Dermot Earley has been involved in all three series since the resumption. He illustrated the disadvantage of the home team not staying together between tests.
"Lads were driving down on Wednesday, driving back that night and down again on Saturday. It might have been better if we could have got together but we can't. It was disappointing as well that those club games had to go ahead but they had to and there's nothing we could do."
Australia coach Dermott Brereton feels that the travelling team always have an advantage and he spelt out what he saw as the difference between his team's preparation and Ireland's.
"We had a four-day camp and if you have fellows coming together once or twice a week over four weeks they have so much time in between, their minds go away from it. But when they're together four days in a row, I thought they were switched on and prepared to make the sacrifices for the limited amount of time they were required to."