herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Best of enemies united for the green

McMahon: 'If it's Ballymun, Dublin, Leinster or Ireland, you put grievance behind and battle with each other'

Ireland captain Bernard Brogan lifts the Cormac Mcanallen Cup after the EirGrid International Rules Test win over Australia in Croke Park
Ireland captain Bernard Brogan lifts the Cormac Mcanallen Cup after the EirGrid International Rules Test win over Australia in Croke Park

For Philly McMahon, Saturday night was the perfect sign-off to a remarkable season. The irony is that it came while sharing a dressing-room with some notable summer adversaries.

Only a few short months after Dublin's famously combative corner-back emerged as the winner of his pivotal two-game joust with Aidan O'Shea, he and the Mayo colossus were back in Croke Park - but with a difference.

This time they were comrades-in-arms for Ireland in their EirGrid International Rules victory over Australia.

"Look, I'm the type of player that if I commit to a team, I commit to the jersey that I put on," McMahon reflected in the warm afterglow of his international debut.

"So if it's for Ballymun, if it's for Dublin, if it's for Leinster, if it's for Ireland, you put your grievance behind you - you battle with each other.

Physical

"And especially when you're playing a physical sport like that, you need to rely on each other. You need to have the support of the players around you."

According to McMahon, the Irish squad "bonded a lot in the last 12 weeks" under the command of Joe Kernan and this was reflected in their 56-52 victory over the AFL's leading professional lights on Saturday night.

"Everybody knows that we prepare as professionals, we play as professionals and our attitude is as professionals, so I didn't feel it was any different out there," he maintained.

"I think the attitude of the Irish players was brilliant," he added. "That was one thing I was thinking of coming in, this being my first test … 'Jesus, will these lads actually battle? Will we come together?' And Joe and the backroom team have done a great job in putting us together and getting us fighting for each other."

Fighting

Crucially, for the long-term success of the hybrid game, fighting for each other no longer translates into actually fighting your opponent.

"I think we need to stop talking about the future of the series. It's there, it's happening. There was a good crowd this year. And as you can see, down in Australia, there's a massive crowd at those games. So it's starting to build back up," McMahon surmised.

Whereas previous tests may have been "a bit more physical, now they're getting a bit more skilful. With the Aussies getting more skilful, the physical side of their game has changed to the technical side of it ... the physicality is still there, the aggression is still there, but it's definitely not crossing the line like it used to.

"Players are smarter now, and the governing bodies are doing it the right way - if you get sent off, you get punished with your county or they get punished with their club. I don't know was that back then, but you definitely think twice about not stepping across the line if that's the case."

So, what's the best way forward - restoring the two-test concept, perhaps?

"There was talks of one test in New York, one test in Australia - that would be really good!" McMahon quipped.

"I think having two tests gives the team a chance to learn a little bit more about the game, and gives the fans a second opportunity to see another big game … I don't know, it's a long year for me and it's nice to get that win and enjoy my holiday next week," he added, ahead of jetting out with Dublin's All-Ireland winning squad to Thailand.

Overall, though, the All Star corner-back has relished his first taste of Rules. "It's probably tough for a full-back because it can kind of surpass you a little bit, especially the way I play coming out a little bit," he pointed out.

"But really enjoyable. A proud moment to represent your country in your sport. And especially playing against a tough Aussie team. They brought over their best players; it was great to have a good spectacle, for the fans.

"They beat us last year so I'm sure they were coming over to give us another beating. But they definitely brought a strong squad over. The criteria to get on that team ... you have to be an All Australian which is the equivalent of our All Stars.

Talking

"We were at a function on the Thursday night, and they were talking up a good game and they brought a good game; but thankfully we came out on the right end of it."

So, has it whetted his appetite for more next year? "Look, who knows what happens? It's definitely something that I've enjoyed doing and it's down to the management team," he pointed out.

"We didn't just represent the lads that were on the pitch and playing ... there's lads on standby, lads that didn't get on the standby list, that victory was for them as well."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News