Critics against one-Test series

The chairmen of the Cork and Kerry county boards have criticised the GAA’s decision to agree to a single International Rules Test in Australia this November.

Critics against one-Test series

Bob Ryan and Patrick O’Sullivan expressed doubts about the justification in travelling over 9,000 miles to play one game in Perth after Croke Park agreed with the AFL to do away with the two-Test version of the series, which had been in place since 1998.

The pair made the comments as Kerry last week queried the future of the Rules and Cork on Tuesday voted against the retention of the hybrid game.

With no plans as yet for future Tests, the one-off clash will take place in the Western Australian capital’s Paterson Stadium on Saturday, November 22.

Only players who have won the AFL’s version of an All Star are eligible to line out for Australia, a positive departure from last year’s series here when Ireland humiliated an all-indigenous Australian side, beating them by a record-breaking two Test aggregate winning total of 101 points.

However, Cork chief Ryan has deep reservations about sending a squad to Australia for one game. “It seems a bit illogical to go all that way for one Test. It doesn’t seem very worthwhile especially as we should now be promoting our own games which are free-to-air in Australia. That’s what we should be concentrating on. The biggest complaint at our meeting was it hasn’t done anything to improve the game of football. It disrupts fixtures and then there’s the fact we’re losing prominent players not just from Cork but the country to the Australian game.”

O’Sullivan also made reference to the GAA’s new TV right deals with Channel 7 and the opportunity to advertise the games Down Under rather than International Rules.

“Does it make sense?” he asked of the one Test. “It doesn’t make a whole pile of it. If you’re going all that way you have to make a series out of it. You might as well bring four counties there and either stage two league games or an exhibition weekend, especially when 45championship games are going to be on television there.

“The question is: does the association have the drive for it? The series was a farce last year and it was a farce the last time it was in Australia too. If they want to develop the game it must be a series and played over two or three games.

“The timing of it was discussed at our meeting and how Darran O’Sullivan missed out because he was in a county final with Mid Kerry.

“There is the cost factor too and when county boards are struggling financially you wonder could the money be put to better use if it’s just one Test.”

GAA director general Páraic Duffy admits the one game carries a significant financial cost. However, he said the organisation had no major issue with the series being cut from two fixtures. About the cost of travelling, he stated: “It is [a big expense] but you are there for a shorter period of time so it’s not as expensive as other series would have been. Our motto all along is that this series has never cost us a penny because the series at home always paid for the series abroad.

“We are happy to give this a go and see if it works because clearly if it doesn’t we have a problem. This is the model they wanted to go with and felt would work best. To be fair, they are the hosts.”

Duffy is encouraged by the soundings coming from Australia, which include the possibility of former cricket star Shane Warne coming on board in a mentoring role.

“What it means is number one, the best Australian players will be available. They actually said it themselves. Only players who are All-Australian will be available for selection. The coach is Alistair Clarke, the coach of Hawthorn who won the Premiership. He is the No 1 coach in Australia. [Collingwood president] Eddie Maguire is the manager. That’s a very positive statement of their intent.

“Okay, in an ideal world we would have preferred two games in saying that. We understand the reasons why they want to do it this way. They believe by marketing it and building it around one game. “This really is a question of rebuilding the series because it hasn’t been in a good place the last couple of series.”

Paul Earley’s Ireland side will have a warm-up game in Melbourne prior to travelling to Perth. Duffy played down the significance of discussions about rule changes, which are aimed at making the game more appealing to AFL players.

“There may be an increase in the number of fisted passes, a couple of things like that, but nothing that will affect how the game is played.”

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