As Joe Kernan keeps his fingers crossed that three of his bug-stricken players will be able to play some part in the first test, the Ireland International Rules manager has underlined the importance of the two referees doing their job tomorrow.
Eirgrid International Rules First Test: AUSTRALIA V IRELAND
Tomorrow: Adelaide Oval, 5.10am (Irish time)
Series betting: Australia 4/7, Ireland 11/8
While the rest of their team-mates trained in St Mary’s GAA Grounds yesterday, Connacht men Pearce Hanley (Mayo/Gold Coast Suns), Niall Murphy (Sligo) and Enda Smith (Roscommon) remained in the team’s Mayfair Hotel in Adelaide in the hope that they will be able to recover to feature in the game.
“If somebody is on for five minutes and does a job then that’s all we want,” Kernan suggested. Each of the players had different complaints. “One with a headache, another shivering, one with the runs. The three of them got a good night’s sleep, which is great. Hopefully, everything stays down today. They will get plenty fluids into them so hopefully they will be okay.”
Several players complained of feeling sick on Thursday as Ireland moved from Melbourne to Adelaide, though news of their woes was greeted in the Australian camp with little sympathy. “It’s good to know the Irish have been a bit sick,” said Collingwood star Scott Pendlebury, “and it’s good to know that it’s going to be 34 degrees on Sunday, so it will be nice and hot, and we’re looking forward to playing in the sweltering conditions.”
In keeping with the Australians’ promise to make the game physical and aggressive, Pendlebury intimated they want to upset the Irish. “There are certain things we have an advantage in which we want to exploit and probably don’t want it to turn into a skill contest... we just don’t want it to turn into a long-kicking contest with them.”
The pointed and repeated remarks from the opposing camp haven’t gone unnoticed by Kernan. “Wait a second, you have to prepare for everything. In fairness to our boys, they won’t back away from anything. I’m not going to tell Aidan O’Shea not to go for a ball or Michael Murphy or Zach Tuohy. All of them boys will give everything they have.
“There’s going to be a lot of pressing up high. There’s going to be a lot of fighting for ball around the middle. We have men who can cope with that and we’ll just get on with whatever comes. I’m sure the referees will do their job if it gets a little over-physical, that they’ll step in and do what they’re supposed to do but we’re ready – it’s as simple as that.”
Maurice Deegan and Conor Lane have travelled over for the series with one of them, likely Laois native Deegan, expected to officiate on Sunday along with an Australian umpire. Kernan won’t be making any excuses about the bug breakout although having a full complement of players will be key with the heat factor in mind. “You can say it’s a setback but it’s just one these things that happen... the rest are okay. If we can get the three lads back, it’s a bonus. If not, we have 20 men who are well able to go out and do the job. The Aussies only have 21 but the extra few lads could be vital in a match with that heat.”
Hydration, he knows, will be a key factor as will using the interchanges wisely. “One, you have to check who needs a breather; two, you have to check who has a problem in an area like you’d get in normal Gaelic football, if you have to make a switch. We have a good selection of boys who can play in a lot of positions.”
Pendlebury fancies the expected sweltering conditions will be an advantage to the hosts. “Speaking to Marty Clarke a couple of days ago, an old team-mate of mine who’s doing a bit of work on the series for Ireland, he said the heat is going to be a big factor in the game. It probably won’t be (a factor) for us, it will be more for the Irish boys. We can’t control the heat, but we’re happy it’s here.”
Conor McManus (slight infection) and Eoin Cadogan (knee) also sat out yesterday’s training session but Kernan said both will be 100%. There was good news for Gary Brennan and Paul Geaney who both took a full part in the practice, which was cut short due to the intense heat. Brennan hadn’t trained in Australia prior to the session while Geaney hurt his knee in a practice match in Melbourne on Wednesday evening. “Gary was a precaution; we didn’t push him. Paul Geaney took a knock the other night. He could have played on, he got a bit of a shock but he’s fine now. He was okay the next morning.”
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