Ireland International Rules captain Aidan O’Shea is assured his team are better prepared to beat Australia this week, writes John Fogarty.
Joe Kernan’s side must win by 10 points or more in tomorrow’s second test in Perth to retain the Cormac McAnallen Cup and the uninterrupted preparation in recent days has helped them greatly, according to the Mayo man.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference in the Subiaco Oval, the venue for the game, O’Shea said: “A 10-point lead to the Australians is only a three-point lead in our game so we could get back into it… they did very well in the third quarter the last day. We did well to keep the lead as it was going into the fourth so it’s still all to play for. We fell we’re right in there with a right chance.
“We had players in bed 90 minutes before the game and they went out and played. We’ve had a good week in preparations – just the backroom team that’s been sick – the players are okay. We’ve drafted a few boys in as well so as player group we’re quite happy and a lot more content going into this weekend.
“Three years ago here, we got completely outplayed for the first two quarters: if we do that tomorrow the cup will definitely be staying in Australia. We’ve got to start well but we can’t afford to give them easy opportunities as we did last week. They played really well in front of goal so we need to make sure we match them everywhere.”
O’Shea agrees the return to full fitness of Gary Brennan could free him up to alternate between midfield and the inside line. “I think so. Last week I played a lot of game around the middle. With Gary (Brennan) unwell and Michael as well….we’ll have a bit more flexibility in terms of where we can position guys. I probably expect to be spending a bit more time from midfield forward but it will all depend on how the game is going.”
Australian coach Chris Scott says they are not worried that they will have two less players than Ireland tomorrow. Australia played with 21 last weekend as did Ireland but the visitors should be able to pick from 23 from 24 players now that Darren Hughes and Ciarán Sheehan have been called up.
Australia welcome back Joel Selwood, who missed Adelaide with an ankle problem, and have introduced Shaun Higgins having lost injured Scott Pendlebury and Patrick Ryder. It means they will have 21 players to call on again but Scott said: “I’m not really an advocate of saying it (Pendlebury and Ryder’s absences) won’t hurt us when we lose key players – we would love to have them available – but we still think we are really strong. With a shorter game-time, it doesn’t seem to worry us that we have a few less on the bench. It’s more about getting guys on at the right time.
"There are some players at home in Ireland that I’m sure the Irish would love to have in their team but there is so much depth in both sports that the difference between your 40th best player and your 20th is pretty tight."
Scott said Australia won’t be aiming to defend their advantage tomorrow. "There is a huge risk in trying to protect a 10-point lead with the skill of the Irish. We need to be a little bit careful that we don’t open up ourselves to unders (goals) because that lead can be extinguished pretty quickly.
“But if you sit back too much, even though we were prepared for it and talked about it, some of the players and even us in the coaches’ box were surprised with some of the range the (Irish) guys have so you don’t want to sit back too much because they’ll just knock it over your head.
We want to play a really attacking style. It would just be so counter to the instincts our players have to talk about playing really dour, defensive football. Clearly, the aggregate is the most important thing, and doing what you can to win the series. But there’s also each game in isolation. I think it would leave a bit of a bad taste in our mouth if we won on aggregate, but lost the game.”
Tomorrow’s test is expected to go close to a sell-out although there have been reports of free tickets being distributed in the AFL store in central Perth.