Ireland have identified Australia’s blistering start as the key to forcing an upset in the one-off International Rules Test in Dublin.
Armed with a rejuvenated lineup of All-Australian stars, Alastair Clarkson’s men tore Ireland apart early in last year’s contest which set up the 56-46 victory.
And Ireland captain Bernard Brogan admitted his side weren’t ready for the onslaught last year, saying that was an area where his side needed to impress at Croke Park on Saturday (Sunday 0600 AEDT).
“The big challenge for us is the tackle, I suppose, and the intensity the lads bring,” he said in Dublin on Friday.
“Look at last year’s Test – the first two quarters we were blown out of the water from the intensity the Australians brought.
“That’s something we’re going to have to try and match.”
Sitting next to Brogan at Friday’s pre-match press conference was Hawthorn’s three-time premiership-winning captain Luke Hodge – who had been given the honour ahead of equally-strong contenders Nick Riewoldt of St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs’ Robert Murphy, who was the All-Australian captain.
As Hodge rattled off names in his talent-laden squad, it highlighted the strength of the Australian squad which has been assembled.
“If you look at a lot of the guys that are in our squad, blokes like Nick Riewoldt, Bob Murphy, Harry Taylor, Sam Mitchell, there’s a lot of guys that have captained their own club and been very successful at it,” Hodge said.
“To get the opportunity to captain your country is definitely a highlight.”
And the enormity of Ireland’s challenge was laid out by a local journalist who quizzed Brogan about whether a victory on Saturday would be classified as the greatest ever in the competition’s 30-year history.
“The Australians have shown their commitment to it by bringing their best to the game,” Brogan said.
“We’re going to be up against it tomorrow night. But we’ve got a really balanced team, a really good footballing team.
“We’re going to go at it. We’re going out there to win.
“We’re not going out there to put on a spectacle – we want to have a great game, we want to go hard like the Australians will and we’ll give it a good lash.
“We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think we were going to win.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge as we know, because it is such an amazing side, but that’s what football is about. Anything can happen.
“It’s whoever comes with the most intensity who will have the biggest say in the game.”