Dublin’s media-shy All-Ireland winning goalkeeper was named International Rules team captain for the October 28 and November 4 Tests against Australia. He is the only Dublin player currently selected and is likely to remain the county’s sole representative on the flight to Melbourne next week.
His club Parnells’ continuing involvement in the championship threatens to put a spanner in the works but Tohill is hoping the matter will be resolved should they beat St Sylvesters this Sunday.
Other Dublin players, like Alan and Bernard Brogan, were also approached, but Tohill felt they didn’t show enough interest.
“Stephen took one approach to it and other players took a different approach to it,” said Tohill.
“I suppose with club commitments, some players felt that they were going to be in it over a longer period of time and weren’t able to commit to it. Stephen Cluxton was there at training on the Saturday morning after the All-Ireland.
“He was at a wedding in Carton House last Friday week and came out of it to train with us before going back into the wedding. His commitment has been phenomenal. His appetite for the game is unbelievable.”
Tohill never considered Cluxton’s refusal to speak to the media as a drawback.
“In my list of things required to be team captain, it is not on my list his ability to speak to the media. And that is no disrespect. I know the media has a job to do.
“I have got to take a football decision and the right football decision to make was to make Stephen Cluxton captain of Ireland.”
Tohill hasn’t named a stand-by goalkeeper although he hinted Monaghan’s Darren Hughes could fulfil the duty. The five remaining slots will be filled in the coming days with Laois’ Colm Begley a likely panellist depending on fitness.
Tohill acknowledged Ireland’s ball skills and tackling let them down in last year’s defeats.
“One of the other big learning things from last year was how poorly we kicked when we were under pressure.
“Australia taught us a lesson in how to kick the ball here last year. For us to see players who week-in, week-out are scoring wonderful points in Gaelic football to be almost like different players when the intensity of the tackle is maybe not on them, but the threat of it is there... we are trying to ramp up the intensity of our training.”
On the matter of tackling, Tohill acknowledged not all his players are equipped to execute the manoeuvre. “We have spent a fair bit of time on that. We have spent a fair bit of time too on fellas we would view as being our tacklers. Not all of our fellas are able to tackle. That’s a given. There is no point in trying to turn everyone into a tackler.”
Tohill also defended the International Rules as a concept following disappointing fare last year.
“I thought that it was okay, Limerick was a bit dull. It came good at the end. There were 60,000 people in Croke Park on that October night last year and I think the vast majority of them left feeling they had been in some way entertained. But we’re in the business of winning football matches.
It’s great if people are entertained. But how many games were you entertained by when you watched the football championship this year? If entertainment is your raison d’etre. The game has evolved.”
Irish panel: S Cluxton (Dublin), C McKeever (Armagh), E Bolton (Kildare), E Cadogan (Cork), K Donaghy (Kerry), L Glynn (Wicklow), F Hanley (Galway), P Hanley (Mayo/Brisbane Lions), D Hughes (Monaghan), T Kennelly (Kerry/Sydney Swans), S Mc Donnell (Armagh), K McKernan (Down), J McMahon (Tyrone), N McGee (Donegal), M Murphy (Donegal), D O’Sullivan (Kerry), K Reilly (Meath), A Walsh (Cork).
First Test: Friday, October 24, Etihad Stadium, Melbourne.