Ireland vow not to compromise

MESS with us and face our wrath — that’s the promise from Ireland vice-captain Ciarán McKeever as Australia prepare to ratchet up their aggression for Friday’s second and final Test.

At the post-game press conference in Melbourne, the Armagh man listened as home coach Rodney Eade promised his side wouldn’t be so nice in the Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium.

However, he has now responded to those words and insisted Ireland will fight fire with fire if required.

“By the talk of them on Friday night, they are going to play it on their terms,” said McKeever.

“I don’t think we are really worried. We have a good bunch of lads there and if they want step the ante up, we will have no bother matching them.”

McKeever was proud of the way his side refused to let Australian get the physical upper hand in the first Test.

“Any day you go out and play football, you are not going to get intimidated,” underlined McKeever. “We all talked about that. We said if these boys front you don’t take a step back, take a step forward.

“They are no bigger or stronger than us. You have to stand your ground, so if they go one step forward, we go two steps forward. There is a great bunch here and you know your back is covered. We didn’t travel 13,000 miles to get intimidated by a crowd of Aussies. We came out here to win.”

Their first training session in Melbourne left few in doubt about the mindset of the management. With Kieran McGeeney directing tackling drills, there was no room for complaints about jet-lag as the players were put through their paces and how. A similarly heavy session was repeated at the team’s Royal Pines resort yesterday where the excesses of celebrations following Friday’s win were sweated out.

Recalling last Monday week, McKeever said: “Some of us maybe thought it was going to be a wee stroll around. But ‘Geezer’ and the management team and those boys set the tempo. It was a high intensity training session and that stood us in good stead for last Friday night. I am just glad that it came to the table.”

Having swapped life as a builder to pursue a career in personal training, McKeever was well equipped to get himself right for these couple of weeks. He’s been preparing for the International Rules ever since Armagh’s championship exit to Tyrone in July and his new occupation also lends itself to getting more rest and recovery.

“You don’t have many years at this here so you want to give it everything,” said McKeever who’s running boot camps and working with Queens University Freshers football team.

“I am glad that I made that change in my life and hopefully it will stand me in good stead before I retire.”

But when it came to perfecting the art of the tackle, McKeever didn’t need too much help. Directing the players, his former team-mate McGeeney has been a major aid but he himself also took the reins when speaking to the group about how to deal with it.

“Last year, when the Australians engaged us in the tackle we were spilling the ball a lot. We were just getting rid of it for the sake of getting rid of it.

“We worked very hard on that. I was just telling the boys that you are going to get wrapped. It’s just the nature of the game. You need to get that into your mindset. You need to be composed on the ball. The boys worked very hard on that over the last few months. Our decision-making on the ball was pretty good.”

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