THE sanctions in place to deal with violent play will ensure “a clean series” between Ireland and Australia this time, according to Kerry great Eoin Liston.
“Back in 1984 John Todd was in charge of the Australian team and his thing was ‘look, we have to win at all costs.’ It was a case of, the first chance you get, if someone is in trouble, to bang the fella next to you’. I remember looking down the field and just like that everyone just turned and they drew on us. It was total violence and it set down a marker. Everyone just turned and banged.
“That was the start of it in ‘84. There was some nice series in between and then some bad sportsmanship. The rules are right now and hopefully we’ll get a good sporting contest and a good physical sporting contest to see how close we are.’’
Liston hopes that what happened in 2006 won’t ever be repeated.
“Players weren’t responsible for their behaviour up to now because there were no consequences. It was just seen as a game in itself and it gave a licence to some of the fellas that wouldn’t be so courageous in their own game.
“Bullying is what it would be called in any other language. We’ll still have a very physical series, it’ll be very competitive but at least players will know now that the rules are there to protect them and that’s important.’’
Liston feels the GAA has learned much from the Australian game.
“The free off the hand to speed up our game, which was one of the biggest transformations in Gaelic, came from when they saw it work in this game.”
Liston says the forced withdrawal of young Kerry star Tommy Walsh because of Kerins O’Rahillys’ involvement in the Kerry SFC semi-final next Sunday “broke their hearts”, given his display in training.
“I told him, ‘Tommy you have two quarters, 36 minutes, to show the rest of the selectors what you’ve got’, and by God, he went out and gave an exhibition in Croke Park of just how good he is. He would have been an automatic selection on the team. But you have to admire as well the love he has for his club.
“I think it is a great sign for a young fella of 20 to turn down a trip to Australia to play for Ireland.’’
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved