Reilly: It’s time we got physical

KEVIN REILLY is promising Friday’s first International Rules Test in Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium will be a lot more physical than last year’s fare.

The Meath defender believes both teams showed each other too much respect in Limerick and Dublin last time round and the Tests lacked intensity.

With Kieran McGeeney drafted in as a selector to increase the ferocity in training, sessions such as yesterday’s in the Whitten Oval — the Ireland squad’s first since the majority of them arrived in Australia on Saturday — haven’t been for the faint-hearted.

It’s obvious Anthony Tohill has gone with a more physically-imposing side this year while sturdy Reilly returns to have another crack at beating the professionals.

“Last year was very open,” he acknowledged. “Far less tackles got in than in previous years. From a spectator’s point of view, they want to see a bit of the physical.

“Okay, it can’t be allowed get out of hand again but we have to get the balance right. There’s no harm in it being a physical game once it’s within the rules. Both teams stood each other a bit too much last year... again just for the intensity, I think we should up it a small bit.

“We were probably afraid a bit [to get involved] because there was a clampdown after what happened a few years ago. We’ll have to wait until Friday night to see how it works out.”

The old chestnut is, of course, the tackle, a facet of the hybrid game that Ireland have never managed to get the hang of.

Step forward McGeeney to try and come up with a solution to the problem.

“The tackle that’s used in this game is alien to Gaelic footballers,” Reilly readily admitted.

“That would be the biggest aspect we have to work on both in making and taking tackles. You’re going to have to live with being tackled and pinned down. In previous years we kind of retaliated a bit because we felt it was unfair.

“Maybe it was just at the back of our heads that we sort of felt that this shouldn’t be happening.

“But we have a lot of work done with Kieran McGeeney, both in giving and taking the tackle, so I don’t think it will be an issue this year.”

Tohill has already admitted a number of players have been trained specifically to tackle while others haven’t been. No prizes for guessing what category Reilly falls under as he talks about keeping the Australians under the kosh from the outset.

“We’re going to have to match the Australians all the way on that front while also playing to our own strengths. It was important for us all to get a run [yesterday]… there’s plenty of time for recovery over the next few days.”

The hurt of losing last year’s series remains with Reilly, two games in which they were given a lesson in ball skills.

“Last year was very disappointing in the sense that we only really played for two quarters,” he said. “We have that at the back of our minds — we’re going to have play for a lot more than that this time if we’re to be in contention for the series.”

Reilly says there are specific areas when both the defence and attacks have room for improvement from 12 months ago.

He added: “Last year they came forward in waves and we didn’t really deal with that as well as we could have. That will be a big issue this time.

“Another area we need to improve on is scoring — if we don’t put the points on the board, we’re not going to win. We’d be given out to in Gaelic football if we kicked as many wides. We seemed to be content with the ‘behinds’ in this game and we just can’t afford to be.”

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