Tohill was yesterday confirmed as the successor to Sean Boylan with Galway’s Sean Óg de Paor, Kerry legend Eoin ‘The Bomber’ Liston and Wicklow selector Kevin O’Brien all part of his management team.
Derry man Tohill wasted no time in detailing the sort of player he wants to help retain the Cormac McAnallen Cup at Croke Park this October.
He said that fitness, strength and high skills levels are all key factors he’ll be looking out for but stated that the fundamental requirement will be for players to be ‘bursting to play for their country’.
He accepted that the real perk of playing for Ireland is gaining an all-expenses paid trip to Australia for several weeks when we’re playing away.
But he warned any players thinking about avoiding this year’s test in the hope of a free trip Down Under in 2011 that they’re in for a big let down.
“Ultimately it is going to be about a two-year plan: we want this year to be building towards Australia next year,” said Tohill.
“It’s easier for some players to go on the Australian trip, I am no fool, I know that, I’ve been a player myself. I know it’s a bigger plus for them but players need to commit in both years if they’re going to be a part of this.
“There’s no use pulling an injury or pulling a flanker on us this season and then looking to get to Australia next season. That’s not going to happen. It’s a two-year gig as far as we’re concerned.”
All-Ireland winner Tohill comes to the position with a rich reputation in the hybrid game. The former Australian Rules player, who also played soccer for Derry City, captained Ireland to success under Brian McEniff’s management in 2001 and was a selector with Boylan’s winning team in 2008.
He was also a selector in 2006 and has seen the other side of the often troubled game with running battles between players at Croke Park that year almost bringing a permanent end to the code.
“We have spoken about the need for us to be competitive and the desire for us to win, but it is equally important that this series and every series passes off without incident,” said Tohill.
“We can never go back to what happened in 2005 and 2006 or else the series does not have a future.”
Crucially, he believes this year’s ties at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick and then Croke Park will be played in the right spirit.
“The disciplinary measures that were put in place after 2006 were key to getting a proper structure in place that forces players to behave themselves,” said Tohill.
“As long as that is adhered to and as long as there is as much emphasis on the discipline side of things as there is on the success side of things, then we do have a future.”
This year’s series was actually due to take place last year but the Australians cried off due to financial reasons.
GAA President Christy Cooney insisted he’s ‘110% confident’ there won’t be a repeat this year.
It means that the tests will go ahead on October 23 and 30 with another series in 2011 before a year off though Tohill favours playing the games on a continual, annual basis.
“That’s my personal view but I can understand why the decision was taken,” he said.
“I think there was a massive void in the calendar last year when the series was not played. Personally speaking I would like to see it every year but it is not my shout.”
One of the many arguments put forward by those who oppose the International game is that it disrupts county championships as players can be called away on Ireland duty.
“The county boards are well aware of the dates for the International Rules and they are well aware of their own schedules for their own championships, so with good planning it should not interfere with it,” claimed Cooney.
Director General Paraic Duffy said: “That is not as big a problem as it used to be. With one or two exceptions, county championships tend to be finished earlier than they used to be.”
Tohill says he’s already begun assessing potential Ireland players and will gather a final squad and convene training after the All-Ireland semi-finals. Renowned trainer Mike McGurn will prepare the team physically again like he did under Boylan.