Irish stars bid for international glory

Ireland take on Australia in the first of this year's Coca Cola International Rules tests at Croke Park today.

Ireland take on Australia in the first of this year's Coca Cola International Rules tests at Croke Park today.

Irish manager Pete McGrath will be looking to his charges to win back the newly-named Cormac McAnallen Cup from the Aussies, who defeated Ireland down under last year.

Only eight of last year's side made the cut this year, plus Tipperary forward Declan Browne, who was injured in a warm-up game last year.

Ireland will be looking to their two AFL exports, Kerry's Tadhg Kennelly and Cork's Setanta Ó hAilpín, to pinpoint Australia's weaknesses in the hybrid game.

The Aussies are physically far stronger, but play with an oval ball, so kicking ability and accurate passing are key to the Irish challenge.

The game is also 10 minutes longer than a Gaelic football match, so Ireland need to build and sustain a lead that will see them through to the final quarter, when they traditionally tire.

Down native McGrath and his selectors Larry Tompkins, John Tobin, John O'Leary and Mickey Linden will be looking to the likes of Sean Marty Lockhart and Ciarán McManus for experience. The Derry man and his Offaly colleague have played 20 test games between them.

Galway's Padraic Joyce skippers the side, taking over the duty from last year's player of the series Graham Canty, and Ireland will be boosted by the likes of Mayo's Kieran McDonald, Declan Browne and Wexford sharp-shooter Mattie Forde.

The game kicks off at 2.10pm to facilitate Australian TV station Channel 9, who are broadcasting the game live.

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