Co-operative Championship ‘Player of the Year’, Featherstone half back Liam Finn, had double reason to celebrate as, 24 hours after receiving his accolade at a glittering ceremony, he was named in Rugby League Ireland (RLI) Head Coach Andy Kelly’s 30-man training squad for the Alitalia European Cup.
Kelly has called up a healthy mix of youth and experience with uncapped players such as Adam Aigbokhae of the Irish Students along with Harlequins RL duo Joe Taylor (also of the North Dublin Eagles) and Jamie O’Callaghan being given their bows.
The men from the Emerald Isle, who were standouts in the 2008 World Cup, will be bolstered with the inclusion of 13 current Super League players, including two members of the Wigan Warriors side which lifted the League Leaders Shield, in the shape of Eamon O’Carroll and Mick McIllorum.
Also handed a place is Tim Bergin who has been instrumental in Sheffield Eagles’ play off campaign and was called up to the squad last year while he was still a member of the Portlaoise Panthers, his performances for his country leading to him being snapped up by Mark Aston.
Huddersfield Giants’ utility Scott Grix will captain the side and is joined in the squad with his brother Simon of Warrington Wolves, the first time the siblings have been called up together since they signed professional terms.
Speaking on the announcement, Kelly emphasised that his side will not be mere bystanders. “We are targeting three wins out of three and plan on springing a few surprises like we did in the World Cup,” he commented.
“The games will be physical challenges, we know that, but like 2008 in Australia, we have the right spirit and attitude to make people sit up and take notice.”
Ireland 30 Man Training Squad:
Liam Harrison, Bret McDermott (Barrow ); Sean Hesketh (Batley); Michael Platt (Bradford); Paddy Barcoe (Carlow Crusaders); Matthew Fox (Dewsbury); Liam Finn (Featherstone); Bob Beswick (Halifax); Jason Golden, Jamie O’Callaghan (Harlequins RL); Simon Finnigan, Scott Grix (Huddersfield); Adam Aigbokhae (Ireland Students); Luke Ambler, Kyle Amor (Leeds); Stevie Gibbons (Leeds Met); Joseph Taylor (North Dublin Eagles ); John Gillam, Wayne Kerr, Marcus St Hilaire (Oldham); Greg McNally (Huddersfield); Sean Gleeson, Ryan Boyle (Salford); Tim Bergin (Sheffield); Brendan Guilfoyle (Treaty City Titans); Simon Grix, Tyrone McCarthy (Warrington); Dave Allen (Widnes); Michael McIlorum, Eamon O’Carroll (Wigan)