THE prospect of a clash of the two biggest Irish stars Down Under was wrecked yesterday when Setanta Ó hAilpín was unceremoniously dropped from the Carlton Blues line-up for this weekend’s AFL showdown with Sydney.
The meeting of the two sides at the Etihad Stadium should have seen the Corkman go head-to-head with Tadhg Kennelly on Sunday afternoon. But after a recent slump culminated with his most difficult outing of the season to date as the Blues were outclassed by the Western Bulldogs last week, Ó hAilpín has felt the wrath of coach Brett Ratten.
Ó hAilpín scorched through the early parts of this season, fully fit and given a new lease of life when redeployed as an attacker, and scored 24 goals in 10 games. However just two goals in his past four games — and his insipid display last Sunday, when he touched the ball just three times in the entire game — have seen him axed for the first time all year.
Ironically the man to take his place, Jarrad Waite, has benefitted greatly from the former Rebel hurler’s physical presence up front this term, being dubbed one of “Setanta’s Little Helpers” by the Australian media. But with their play-off place very much on the line against Kennelly’s in-form Swans, Ratten insisted yesterday something had to change.
“I just think we haven’t got a lot of energy forward of centre in our game, even with our midfielders engaging and trying to score as well,” said the Blues boss. “I don’t think we’re really running with a lot of energy forward of play. Backward of centre we are, but forward of centre we haven’t shown that zip and x-factor.”
Sunday afternoon’s clash was scheduled to be the only regular-season clash of Ireland’s most successful exiles to Aussie Rules in recent times, so unless the Swans and Blues meet in the play-offs, fans may have to wait until next season for an unorthodox Cork-Kerry clash Down Under.
Meanwhile, Pearce Hanley’s impressive outing for Brisbane last weekend has helped him keep his place in the match-day panel in spite of the Lions welcoming back a host of players from injury. The Mayoman, who played three first-team games in total in his first two years Down Under, will now play his third game of this campaign against Hawthorn in the unusual surrounds of Tasmania this weekend.
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