Laois forward Ross Munnelly, who recently took up a new job in DCU’s Careers Service, was the top scorer on the pitch in Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday night as Ireland swept aside Australia’s ‘Indigenous All-Stars’ by a scoreline of 57-35 in the first test of this year’s International Rules series.
Munnelly contributed nine points to Ireland’s total and the University’s staff member was in good DCU company with past and present students such as Aidan Walsh, Paul Flynn, Ciaran Byrne and Michael Murphy also starting for Paul Earley’s side.
Speaking to The College View, Munnelly revealed his desire to represent his country again after his previous cap in 2005.
“It was something that I always wanted to do again. In 2005 I was lucky. I got to go to Australia for those two tests and that was unbelievable and meeting people from home who had to emigrate to find work and people who were on their years abroad and so on. It was brilliant from that point of view.”
However, as the years are progressing, Munnelly will particularly cherish this year’s series.
“This one is a little bit different and a little more special because at 30 years of age, you don’t know how many more years of playing you have. I think this series means a lot more to me to be involved, especially with so many DCU people involved and there are three Laois players as well so it has a really good feeling to it.”
As manager of DCU’s fresher football team, the Laois player has a good understanding with Ciaran Byrne who played under Munnelly for the Glasnevin outfit last season. Byrne has now left the college to pursue a career with AFL club Carlton and Munnelly asserts that any of the current first-year players have the potential to follow in the Louth youngster’s footsteps.
“He’s an example to any of the freshers this year that if you really apply yourself you can make huge strides and go up a number of different playing levels if you really apply yourself and he’s gone from fresher footballer to getting his first cap for Ireland. That’s particularly pleasing from a fresher management point of view.”
By the time this week finishes, DCU’s fresher footballers were due to have three league matches under their belt. In reality, they won’t have kicked a ball in competitive action. The annual early-season fixture scrambling is in full swing with clashes against UCD and Queen’s postponed as well as this afternoon’s scheduled tie with St. Mary’s.
We’ll have to wait until next week at the earliest then, to get a glimpse of the new additions to DCU’s footballing ranks. It will be hard work rather than sheer skill that will take this bunch to the same level of last year’s Championship-winning fresher side, according to Munnelly.
“I don’t know whether we had the best team in the country last year. I think we definitely had the hardest working team and their performances in tight games show that. They were able to come back in a couple of games when their backs were to the wall and we’d be hoping for something similar this year.
“In DCU we always pride ourselves on having teams who are going to try and work harder than the opposition and certainly we’ll be going about trying to instill that in the players this week and next week and for the first league game.”
If we take Munnelly’s word for Gospel, then all is well in the fresher camp. He explains how training levels are of a steep intensity and competition for places in the final squad is vehement.
“Everybody is working hard. At the moment we have a panel of 27. That’s going to have to be cut down and lads are working ferociously hard at the minute. Freshers’ is such a hard competition to win because we only get the lads in October and the season is finished in March so it’s an extremely short space of time.
“The time we do take with the lads, we have to make sure to be very clear about what we want from them and what we expect and I’d suppose the main message we always give the lads is that they’re representing DCU, the very same as their home club. They need to buy into that and put their shoulder to the wheel straight away.”
Munnelly’s point-scoring antics at the weekend are the product of his own training, something which, lately, has distracted him from his training of DCU’s youngest footballers.
“The last two weeks have a been a little bit disjointed because I’d suppose I’m involved with the (International) Rules and I haven’t been at all the sessions but I’m very lucky that I have Ken Robinson, Paul O’Connor and Ryan O’Flaherty there. They took the lads for two sessions last week and it’s important to have a brilliant management team who can continue the work if I’m not there for a given day.”
With such a late semester start-date in DCU, does the trio of fixture postponements then work in DCU’s favour?
“Absolutely. It does suit us because initially we were supposed to play in week two and we didn’t even have our trials finished in week 2. There’s over 100 players and you can’t cut those down in one week – you need a second week to do that so it has been great for us that those games have been cancelled which gives us a chance to get in and do a little bit of work with the lads and start delivering our key messages in terms of tactics and what we expect from them.
“I think UCD would have been in week four (when UCD vs. DCU was originally fixed) so they would’ve been well ahead of us. You definitely need at least one month with the players to get through the trials for two weeks and then have two weeks of training and try and take it from there.”
Thankfully, for DCU GAA’s sake, they are competing in a league with considerate individuals at the helm of other sides.
“I always find other colleges extremely accommodating like UCD, for example, two weeks ago. I was able to make a call and say ‘listen, we’re under pressure, we’re still completing trials at the minute’ and there was absolutely no problem for UCD to fix it for a week where we both have a bye. When you have co-operation like that, it’s brilliant.”
Given Munnelly’s ruthless streak on Saturday night, one can be sure that such generosity won’t get in the way of him encouraging his charges to be unrelenting in their pursuit of glory in this year’s league. When DCU’s campaign does, at long last, begin.
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