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Tuesday 6 December 2016

McManus: 'We showed Australians too much respect last year and paid the price'

Conor McManus
Conor McManus

Conor McManus recalls last year's International Rules Test with a mixture of bemusement and regret.

Some 38,262 attendees in Perth bore witness to the most one-sided, potentially series-ending, half of the hybrid game seen in its colourful history.

One quarter in, Australia led by 22 points to 4.

By the middle mark, the scoreboard read 35 to seven in favour of the home team and if most inside Patersons Stadium wondered whether they was any point in staying for the second half, many centrally involved pondered if there was any good reason to host a return leg this year.

"I think that was something that we maybe gave the Australians too much respect for in that regard last year," recalls McManus, who led a gutsy Irish fightback.

Imposing

"I know that skills-wise, we maybe underestimated them but from a physical point of view, maybe in the first quarter, we kind of stood back and watched them."

These are key narratives in the International Rules story.

When Ireland win, it's often attributed to the lopsidedness of the compromise in the playing rules, ie round ball, square pitch.

When the Aussies rule, it's because they're pros.

"Physically they are fairly imposing," said McManus, who scored four overs as Ireland dragged themselves back to within swinging distance of their hosts.

"But once we got into them and into the mix, I think it showed that we were well able to compete with them and by the last quarter last year, we were the team finishing the strongest and they were holding on. In terms of fitness and everything else, I don't see a massive difference," adds the Monaghan man.

And so Ireland lost by 10 points (56-46).

Most mourned that there would be no second test - but this year's staging was guaranteed.

Nevertheless, as McManus admits, being selected for Ireland also hoists responsibility for the future of the sport onto the anointed.

"It adds to the occasion but after the test last year and the way it finished up for us - we were 10 points down after 80 minutes or whatever it was - there's nothing you would have wanted more than a second test to try and get back at it," he says.

Great

"It would have been a great occasion if we had taken it to a second test in Melbourne or Sydney or wherever it would have been.

"Ten points down or however it finished, it would have been a cracking second test.

"Coming here now after the way it was in Croke Park two years ago," the double All Star continues, "I think it probably needs a competitive edge to the game and one test will probably do that.

"Hopefully," concludes McManus, "it recaptures the imaginations of people in the GAA."

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