Alan McMahon ready for big moment in rugby league

Irish wing Alan McMahon, hopes today’s big World Cup qualifying game against Russia at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray (5pm), will provide him with further opportunity to develop his new-found career in Rugby League.

Alan McMahon ready for big moment in rugby league

Dungarvan native McMahon, a brother of Munster Academy player, Steven, is a former pupil of Rockwell College and moved to Rugby League last summer, on a then temporary basis, from Rugby Union and Galwegians.

He made a quick impact and is now one of five domestic players in the Ireland squad, alongside Irish-qualified professionals from the UK and Australia, for the clash with the Russians, with the winners qualifying for the 2017 World Cup in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.

The 20-year-old joined the Galway Tribesmen and played for the Irish Students (he is studying commerce in NUIG) in the Four Nations tournament in Scotland. He followed up with appearances for the Ireland domestic team, in more recent A internationals, against Jamaica, Italy, and Malta. But his big breakthrough came last week, when he was one of the amateur representatives on the senior team. He played on the wing, in a big win over Spain, and retains his place in the squad for today’s clash against the Russians, who also beat Spain, to also put themselves in line for qualification.

McMahon was delighted to play alongside professionals. “It widened the scope. You have to cope with the game being much faster alongside these guys, but it was also really enjoyable, because everyone seemed to know their roles. I hope I handled it ok, although it was a shock at the start; the pace was the big thing I had to get used to, on top of the necessity to stay concentrated throughout. The Russians watched them play against Spain. They are big, physically, they play a very aggressive game, but I don’t think it’s anything we won’t be able to handle on the day.”

Ireland coach, Mark Aston, thinks likewise and is determined for his charges to gain this automatic qualification spot. Yesterday, he praised McMahon and the remainder of the amateur Irish-based players. “The lads took to the challenge very quickly and played a significant role in our win over Spain,” he said.

Aston knows the Russians will bring huge physicality to the contest, but says his squad have more skill and should secure a place in next year’s tournament. “Look, it’s probably going to be difficult, but I would be confident about our chances going into this game. This is a learning process for some players, for sure, but the group has improved over their experiences in recent training camps. It’s fair to say Russia are a really big, physical side; some of the players are massive and they will certainly want to mix it. We need to be smart and, if you play smart and get the tempo of the game up, which we’re capable of doing, then we would hope get the better of them. The thing about these emerging nations is that they tend to knock off when they’re put under pressure and that’s where we can come out on top”.

IRELAND RL:

S McDonnell (St Helen’s), A McMahon (Galway Tribesmen), S Littler (Swinton), T King (Warrington Wolves), C Dunne (Longhorns RL), S Grix, L Finn (both Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), G King (Warrington Wolves), J Keyes (Bradford Bulls), L Ambler (Halifax), W Hope (Oldham Roughyeds), D Allen (Whitehaven), O Roberts (Huddersfield Giants).

Replacements:

M Hadden (Rochdale Hornets), J Kelly (Dublin City Exiles), G Gill (Ballynahinch Rabbitohs), J Philbin, (Warrington Wolves).

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