Canty: A lot we can improve on

GRAHAM CANTY admits Ireland have ‘a lot of improving to do’ if they are to overcome Australia in Saturday’s second and decisive International Rules Series Test at Croke Park.

For long spells the hosts were outplayed on their own turf in the two most basic elements of their own game – catching and kicking – by an Australian team that looked at ease with the round ball at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday.

The Cork skipper knows that replays of the tie wouldn’t make for pleasant viewing as the squad prepare for the second and decisive test at GAA headquarters (Live on TG4).

And he believes that the home outfit can learn a lot from the visitors especially in working the ball close to goal.

Canty was blunt in his assessment of Saturday night’s display yet still retains confidence that Ireland can win the Series.

Canty said: “We’re disappointed, we could have played an awful lot better. Only for our scoring spurt in the last ten minutes (series-saving six-point super-goal by Bernard Brogan, then three one-point ‘behinds’ – all of which should have been three-point ‘overs’ – to bring Ireland back to within seven points) we would have been in serious trouble.”

He was impressed with the players and tactics utilised by Australian coach Mick Malthouse.

Canty explained: “They moved the ball better, especially across midfield. They ran hard lines, they kicked well and they have a lot of speed and pace in their game.

“From what I hear, their players are picked because of that – they are good ball players. They probably got ‘marks’ closer to goal. Where we were kicking from distance, they were kicking from 15 yards closer. We were taking tough kicks – 40 yards out and not in front of goal. The marks within 30 yards we kicked (scored), more often than not.

“We were a little bit nervous – maybe our composure wasn’t great, a lot we can improve on.

“We were overran in the third quarter but finished well, which was encouraging.

“We have 72 minutes played now so we will both improve, but we would hope that there’s more improving in us.”

One element of previous series that was missing on Saturday evening last, however, and a most welcome omission, was the violence, the kind of ugly tackling and brawling that so sullied this on-going experiment.

But hardness shouldn’t be confused with violence, and Canty, for one, isn’t disappointed at the new approach.

“I think both teams concentrated on playing football. Leading up to this, I was disappointed reading a few things with people trying to focus on one or two series that were over the top and weren’t acceptable. I have played six or seven times now in different series, and an awful lot of those were very enjoyable – the two games in the series two years ago were very enjoyable. It was disappointing to read people focusing on the negative.”

Meanwhile, defender Michael Shields is likely to be drafted into the Ireland International Rules squad for Saturday’s second test in Croke Park, while a decision on the fitness of Down attacker Benny Coulter will be made later in the week.

Shields withdrew from the squad for Saturday night’s first test due to his involvement with St Finbarr’s in Sunday’s Cork SFC final, while Coulter opted out due to a quad muscle injury. Ireland boss Anthony Tohill called up Kildare defender Emmett Bolton and Offaly attacker Niall McNamee as replacements, but the Derry native is hopeful that Shields and Coulter will be available to face Australia next Saturday night.

“It’ll depend on the condition of those fellas. We’ll be giving them as much time as we can to prove their fitness. He’s (Benny Coulter) part of our original squad so we’ve to give him as much time as we can. Michael Shields had a club championship match on Sunday, so it depends on how he came through that. So we’ll take a view on that towards the end of the week but we’ll give him as much time as possible.”

Tohill will also hope that Carlow midfielder Brendan Murphy and Wicklow forward Leighton Glynn report no ill-effects from their club exertions over the weekend.

Murphy was part of the Rathvilly side that suffered defeat to OldLeighlin in Sunday’s Carlow SFC final, while Glynn was in action for Rathnew on Sunday in the Leinster Club SFC against Skryne (Meath) and Glenealy on Monday in the Leinster Club SHC against St Mullins (Carlow).

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