Two of the Irish International Rules manager’s key players, captain Stephen Cluxton and fellow Player of the Year nominee Darran O’Sullivan, are in club action this weekend and it remains to be seen if they will beavailable for the trip to Australia.
Cluxton lines out for Parnells against St Sylvesters while O’Sullivan’s Mid Kerry side features in a Kerry senior semi-final against East Kerry. Should either or both win they will face an unenviable ‘club v country’ conundrum. Of the two, Cluxton’s participation would seem the moreassured down under as it would beunlikely that Tohill would have offered the Dublin goalkeeper the armband if there was any lingering doubt over his availability for the two tests.
O’Sullivan’s case is less straightforward as his side are heavily fancied to progress through to the county final against either Dr Crokes or West Kerry which is due to take place in between the Melbourne and Gold Coast tests. “It’s tricky, fellas are put in poor positions,” said Kieran Donaghy who was spared a similar choice after last week’s Kerry senior county quarter-final when his Austin Stacks side lost out to Dr Crokes by a point.
“Darran is in an awful position. He has a chance of a lifetime, a chance to go out and play for his country and his club team are in the semi-final. There should be some way, the year that it is on out in Oz, to maybe holdchampionships for the three weeks.”
Had Stacks won, there would have been no debate in Donaghy’s mind.
“The club team had put in huge effort. We were beaten in the county semi-final in 2009 and beaten in the final last year so there was huge effort put in. I felt after being beaten by Dublin that I should go back and put the same effort in.
“It wasn’t to be. We had chances, we were down seven points and we clawed it back to get all flat. Kieran O’Leary kicked the winning point so basically it was a case of rowing in behind the Rules after that.”
The training panel, currently made up of 31 players but due to be whittled down to 23, played behind closed doors at Croke Park on Wednesday night against a touring VFL side but the contest was over before half-time.
Australia will be a much tougher proposition but the hosts have their own issues to deal with ahead of the first test at Etihad Stadium at the end of the month given the news that their designated goalkeeper Dustin Fletcher is out of the series through injury.
His position may be taken by Gold Coast ruckman Zac Smith who has some experience of the custodial role from his days playing junior soccer.