Having managed the Ireland U21 team for the last three years, it is perhaps a natural progression for John Meyler to make the step up to the role of joint manager of the senior side along with Michael Walsh, taking over the role held by Joe Dooley, as they prepare for the 2012 Hurling/Shinty International Series.
Ireland face Scotland in the first game of a two-Test series at Bught Park, Inverness on Saturday, October 20 before the return leg takes place in St Joseph’s Doora Barefield, Ennis a week later.
Meyler is speaking to GAA.ie on the day before his son, David, a promising underage hurler in Cork before he moved across the water to pursue a professional soccer career with Sunderland, is expected to make his competitive debut for Ireland against Germany.
John Meyler never had the opportunity to represent his country in an inter-county hurling career that saw him play for the Model County and then Cork, where he now resides.
“It would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, hearing the national anthem in Scotland,” Meyler says ahead of the first Test on Saturday week. “In rugby and soccer guys can represent their country a hundred times.
“The only thing we have that is comparable is the All Stars, but that is not quite the same. So this is a wonderful opportunity for players, with national pride at stake. It’s super.”
Hurling/Shinty International Series
Ireland v Scotland
October 20, Inverness, 1.15pm
October 27, Ennis, 2.05pm
Meyler has assembled a squad of 18, which he, along with joint manager Walsh, selected over the last number of weeks. Each county involved in the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cup competitions was asked to nominate five players for a trial, and 14 players were then selected to join the squad from that group.
In addition, Meyler and Walsh were allowed to include four players from the elite counties competing in the Liam MacCarthy Cup, including Shane Dooley (Offaly), Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny), Patrick Maher (Tipperary) and Patrick Horgan (Cork). Cork’s Shane O’Neill was named in the initial squad but was forced to pull out with a broken thumb.
“You look for commitment,” Meyler says of the selection process. “It’s easy to nominate guys who aren’t involved in county finals and don’t have work commitments.
“They have to be able to turn up on the two days. It’s difficult in the preparation, but the guys who are committed and enthusiastic and want to be there will be there. That’s what we have found over the years.”
Meyler and Walsh have already gathered the players for two training sessions ahead of the first Test in Inverness on October 20, but he has been in constant contact with each member of the squad in recent weeks.
The Wexford native says he was overwhelmed by the response he got from the players, especially the elite players he called upon to sprinkle his panel with experience.
“Patrick Horgan turned up for a trial on the first day. They all wanted to be involved. It’s a great honour to represent your country and that’s what these guys see.
“I suppose the only chance that they usually get is to play for the All Stars on an away trip. I think this is a fantastic honour for these guys and you can see by the way they turn up.
“When you ring guys up the following year and ask them to come back for a trial you can see that they really, really enjoyed it. They really want to be there.”
Meyler himself has graduated from managing the U21 side for the last three years alongside Kilkenny’s Michael Walsh, and was delighted to get the call from Croke Park to make the step-up to the role of senior manager.
“Without hesitation the two of us agreed to come on board. The two of us get on well together and work well together,” he adds.
“We have the same philosophy and it is a fantastic honour for us to manage our own country. Like the players, it’s the only chance we get to be involved in international competition.”
As always with composite games, adapting to the new rules is one of the toughest hurdles for the players to overcome. Crucially, players are not allowed to handle the ball (unless they are the goalkeeper) or kick it, while a score from a placed ball is worth two points.
“I made out a page of Shinty tips for the players and asked them to read it and familiarise themselves with it,” adds Meyler.
“You have to emphasise to the players not to give away frees or sideline balls inside 60 or 70 yards because they will get two points for that.
“You keep emphasising two or three key points and keep after them. The skilful hurlers will have no problem adapting.”
For further information, please visit www.hurlingshinty.gaa.ie