Crowds plummet amid concern Rules Series losing its lustre

JUST 14,000 spectators are expected to attend Friday’s International Rules second Test at the Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium.

A day after GAA Director General Páraic Duffy warned a 10,000 crowd would put the series in “serious trouble”, officials at the 25,000-capacity venue anticipate it will be a little over half-full for the game.

Speaking yesterday, Anthony Tohill expressed his concern about the drop in interest in the hybrid game in Australia.

“The crowd’s not something we can deal with, but it is a concern for the future of the series. We talked about what the risks were and apathy was one of them — either from spectators or players. It’s not a worry right now, because we’ve got to worry about Friday night. But it is a wider concern.”

The Metricon Stadium, just a kilometre from Ireland’s Royal Pines Hotel, is a beautiful stadium but its surface is particularly suspect. With a lot of dead grass, it’s certainly an inferior pitch to the Etihad Stadium but Tohill isn’t overly concerned by it.

“It’s a bit patchy in places but there are no holes in it. I don’t think there is a risk of anybody getting an injury out of the pitch. It looks worse than it is. The ball is still bouncing true, even in the patchy bits. I’m not too concerned about that. It’s firm.”

Meanwhile, Tohill admitted Karl Lacey may not play any football during his stint in Australia. The three-time Donegal All Star travelled Down Under as the standby player and looked set to come in following Emmet Bolton’s neck injury during the first Test.

However, the Kildare defender trained with Joe McMahon (small calf tear) on their own last night at three-quarter pace. It means Lacey could be kicking his heels for a second successive week.

“There’s that danger. We haven’t spoken about that until we see where we’re at with our injured players.

“We’ll make a call on that when we know the full situation with Joe and Emmet — those are the two we are mainly concerned with.”

Mayoman and Brisbane Lions player Pearce Hanley did not train. Tohill gave him the night off while Donegal All Star full-back Neil McGee retired from the session early after hurting his back. But it’s Bolton’s recovery from a collision with Mitch Robinson to put himself in the frame for Friday that’s most interesting.

“He’s recovering well. His whole neck area is stiff and sore, as you can imagine if you saw the collision. It’s freeing up and he was up to a good three-quarter pace (in the session). It’s all looking positive and we expect him to be available.”

Despite comments by Rodney Eade that their gloves are now off, Tohill refuses to believe Australia will revert to violence as they try and claw back a 44-point deficit.

“When a team suffers a defeat at all, you expect the players to respond the next time out and I’m sure there’ll be a response from Australia. If it’s within the rules of the game and it’s hard and fair, we’ve no issue at all.”

Tohill admitted he was surprised the AFL and Eade allowed Australian media into their dressing room for pre-match, half-time and post-match discussions,

“I was, yeah! I found that surprising. Cameras are obviously in dressing rooms in the AFL. They’re not in the GAA and it will be quite some time I’d say before we have journalists in the dressing rooms listening to half-time teamtalks in All-Ireland finals.”

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