Tohill: Round ball no bonus

IRISH boss Anthony Tohill believes that the Australians improved skills with the round ball means his squad no longer have a clear advantage ahead of tonight’s International Rules First Test in the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick

The Australian squad looked extremely comfortable playing with the round ball as they cruised to an emphatic 105-12 win over a UCC/CIT selection in a warm-up game in Páirc Uí Rinn on Wednesday night.

“The continued adaptation of the Australian players with the round ball is a worry for us.

“The Aussies were very adept on Wednesday night albeit against a fairly young UCC/CIT side. But to put up a score of 105 points and hold your opposition to 12 is a phenomenal result. The round ball has always been our biggest advantage. In games gone by you could almost allow Australia to have 70% of possession, knowing that they would not translate that into scores. But it is something that we will be working on to put them under more pressure than they were on Wednesday night.”

His Australian compatriot Mick Malthouse insists the round ball is still a major advantage to the hosts and that the presence of Dublin netminder Stephen Cluxton is another boost to the Irish cause.

“I can tell you right now, the Irish use the ball far better than us because we’ve only kicked the thing two or three times in the space of two weeks. From what I’ve seen of the Irish side, they’re very quick and superbly fit. Our first priority when we got this group together was to have massive respect for our opponents

“As far as the technical skills and everything else, as much as Dustin Fletcher’s a fantastic player, I’d love to have their goalkeeper!”

Both Tohill and Malthouse are hopeful that this series will be played in a sporting manner and the rancorous scenes in the 2006 series will not be repeated.

“What happened in the past is well and truly in the past – it’s buried as far as we are concerned,” stressed Malthouse. “If it does repeat itself, it will be a total surprise to me, Adam and the rest of the playing group.

“If it’s played in the right spirit there is going to be 30 players on a small pitch running around with the intent to win the football.”

Tohill concurred: “I would support everything Mick has to say about the series, the sporting nature that it’s going to be played in.

“We are going to play it in the right manner, in a sporting way – we are going to play hard and we are going to play fair.

“Whatever happens at the end of the series, the best team will win if it’s played in those terms.”

Meanwhile Irish captain Steven McDonnell admits the AFL knowledge of Tadhg Kennelly and Marty Clarke has been beneficial ahead of tonight’s game.

“We know they’re very strong players and good athletes, so the feedback that Tadhg and Marty have given us has been good.

“There are a lot of new players in the Australian side and we wouldn’t have heard too much about those guys.

“Having the insight that the boys do have is important.”

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