Ireland on course for back to back AFL International Cup triumphs

It’s been a very busy time in Melbourne at this International Cup, I haven’t blogged as much as I would have wanted but my priority has been playing, training and recovering!  But here is a finals preview I have just written.

warriorsanthemphoto

Having won the men’s and women’s tournaments at the last AFL International Cup in 2011, Ireland are on track for repeat successes in the 2014 competition.   The International Cup is a triennial event conducted by the AFL since 2002, and this year a record number of 18 nations from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific have participated. The Irish Warriors men’s team will play Papua New Guinea Mosquitoes in the Grand Final on Saturday evening at 4:50pm in the Melbourne Cricket Ground in a repeat of the last final in 2011. This game is the undercard to the 2nd v 3rd blockbuster between Geelong and Hawthorn with over 80,000 attendance expected. The Irish Banshees women’s team will also play their 2011 final rivals the Canada Northern Lights in the Grand Final at Punt Road Oval, home of AFL team Richmond Tigers at 2:10pm on Saturday.

The men’s decider is expected to be a close affair with the hard running hand balling style of PNG contrasting with the more direct kicking approach of the taller Irish team.   Ireland have had some close contests before reaching the final after a bruising opening game against Fiji. The group decider against Nauru under lights in Bendigo was only settled in the final quarter and again in the semi-final against South Africa on Tuesday the result was only confirmed late in the game the Warriors eventually won by 25 points 8.5 53 to 4.4 28.

Papua New Guinea have been to every International Cup Grand Final since the competition began in 2002 but have won only once in the previous four finals, against New Zealand in 2008. They also lost the 2002 and 2011 finals to Ireland. In the 2014 tournament PNG cruised through their opening two group games against Japan and India before being shocked by South Africa in the group decider going down by nine points.   They managed to get a semi-final spot on score percentage and then had to play many people’s tournament favourites New Zealand in the semi-final. In this game they attacked from the start and were four goals to no score up at the end of the first quarter. New Zealand couldn’t handle their free flowing style and superior ball skills and speed. As the game progressed PNG extended their lead to win 12.3 75 to 4.4 28.

PNG danger men include former AFL listed players Gideon Simon and Brendan Beno.   In their semi-final win PNG big man John Ikupu was also very influential working well with busy on-baller Theo Gavuri. Amua Pirika is a real threat at full forward and will have to be watched. One injury doubt for the Mosquitoes is captain, John James Lavai. He had until midway through the third quarter of the game been the best player on the ground against New Zealand Hawks, but then he hobbled off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

The Warriors have a tall side and some of their most influential players are talls, including captain Michael Finn, full forward Padraig Lucey and primary ruckman Paul O’Halloran. They also have a very experienced on-baller in David Stynes who kicked two goals against South Africa and energetic players such as Brendan Browne and Ronan Geraghty in midfield.   However every player will be tested against PNG and the ability to win more of the one-on-one match ups may decide the contest.

In the women’s decider Canada have worked hard since their 2011 defeat to Ireland to improve their skills and structures. The work seems to be paying off and they have impressed in their round robin games to date. The Irish Banshees have also made their way to the final with relative ease although have not being scoring as freely as Canada.   Important players for the Banshees will include talls Laura Corrigan, Aimee Louise Hazely and Louise Loughlin. UTS Shamrock Gill Behan will be an important goal kicker and others to watch out for include Paula Keatly and Una McKay.

For the Canadians captain Aimee Legault is one to watch along with Ottawa Swan Emma Dickinson and Edmonton Emus duo Brandie Corrigan and Danah Arnold. Based on performances to date the Canada Northern Lights will go in to the final as favourites but if the Banshees can be tight in defence and fluent in attack they could be on course for a repeat victory. Both finals can be watched live on http://www.aflic14.com.au.

Also please support my fundraiser, only one day left https://www.pledgesports.org/projects/irish-aussie-rules-team-road-to-the-mcg/

August 22, 2014 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

Semi-finals here we come

After yesterday’s win over Nauru we are now in the International Cup semi-finals.  The game was played under lights at Queen Elizabeth Oval in Bendigo after the local derby between Castlemaine and South Bendigo.  There are strong Irish connections with this part of Australia so it was great to go there for a game.  In fact Ian Bracken from the Castlemaine club founded the Belfast Redbacks club and played in the very first Aussie Rules game in Ireland.  I’m sure he was a proud man yesterday to see how far Irish Aussie Rules has come to be playing an international footy match in his locality.

 

The Castlemaine club was formed in 1859, it is the second oldest documented football club in Australia after the Melbourne Football Club and it has produced a large number of notable Australian rules footballers.  The club was formed in an era before codified rules and organised competition, without a league to participate in, the club was an irregular competitor during its first decade.  Sounds very similar to the early years of ARFLI.

 

The South Bendigo and Castlemaine clubs showed us great hospitality providing us with everything from trainers to after game food, they even supplied us with sandwiches immediately after the game!  The game itself was a close affair with Nauru using their running game to good effect whereas we tried to dominate with our talls.  It was only in the last quarter that we managed to pull away with Kerry man Padraig Lucey making a significant contribution at full forward kicking five goals to add to the five he got against France.  At the final hooter we had 27 points to spare but we knew it had been a real contest.  Earlier in the day I heard the surprising news that South Africa had beaten PNG by 9 points.  This means we now play South Africa in the semi-final at 1:30pm Tuesday in Royal Park.  They’ll be tough opponents to beat. 

 

On a personal note I had an injury ridden week, after being tackled on kicking the ball against Fiji in the opening game I limped off after less then 5 minutes game time.  The rest of Sunday through the whole week my chiropractor wife Tammy and I have been working round the clock to get the swelling down around my ankle and healed.  By the miracle of chiropractic I was back training at full pace by Thursday after being a cripple on Monday.  By yesterday’s game I was 100%.  Having prepared for this tournament from as far back as 2011, I have no time for injuries to get in my way now.  So we march on to Tuesday, it should be an exciting day where we hope to avenge the controversial playing on after the siren 2008 International Cup third/fourth place playoff defeat to the South Africans.

August 17, 2014 at 2:31 pm Leave a comment

Arrived in Melbourne!

Melbourne-future-skyline

After years of preparation the 2014 International Cup is nearly upon us. I have just arrived in Melbourne after a relatively stress free flight from Dublin via Abu Dhabi. It’s a little cooler than Dublin and the sun disappears much earlier in the day but nothing like an Irish winter day. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a good sleep tonight. I’ll be using my Mindfit glasses that are great at getting you into the right brainwave state for sleep. We have our first training session tomorrow evening so should be well recovered from the flight by then.

I see New Zealand aren’t hanging around and had a warm up game tonight in Melbourne where they comfortably beat a VAFA team. They are one of the tournament favourites in the men’s competition after really putting it up to the Australian AFL AIS academy team earlier this year. Most of the teams have arrived already and with social media you quickly get a feel for what’s going on. The Canada teams are very active on Twitter, not surprising when they have about 90 players spread over three different teams.

I have been busy in the last weeks promoting my fundraising page https://www.pledgesports.org/projects/irish-aussie-rules-team-road-to-the-mcg/ and I had a great interview about Aussie Rules in Ireland and the 2014 International Cup on Irish radio station Shannonside. You can listen to it here http://www.shannonside.ie/sport/legans-peter-ross-to-play-aussie-rules-for-ireland/

Remember I’ve lots of items such as the official Irish team jersey I’m giving away in exchange for support on pledgesports so visit the site. Your helping me and the Irish team.

Remember you can follow me on Twitter @peterross07

August 6, 2014 at 1:38 pm Leave a comment

Support my IC14 Fundraising on www.pledgesports.org

2014-AFL-International-Cup-Logo-300x250

All the players on the Irish Warriors Aussie Rules team must fund training and playing 100% themselves. This is tough for everyone. With the International Cup being played in Australia the financial burden is greater with a ballpark figure of €5,000 to find preparing and playing in this tournament. Being self employed also means I have to give up my income to play.

I have put together a number of rewards some of which are related to my business Life and Balance Centre http://www.lifeandbalance.ie, others include fabulous prizes such as entry for a trip to the AFL Grand Final and you can even buy the official Irish Warriors AFL jersey.

Limited edition official jersey

Limited edition official jersey

Click link below to support the cause

https://www.pledgesports.org/projects/irish-aussie-rules-team-road-to-the-mcg/

July 31, 2014 at 12:28 pm Leave a comment

Swans Win ARFLI Premiership yet again

South Dublin Swans 10.16 76 Belfast Redbacks 8.8 56

My club South Dublin Swans have won the 2013 Australian Rules Football League of Ireland Premiership.   They secured the title with  a dramatic victory over last season’s winners Belfast Redbacks on Saturday last at the Civil Service Grounds in Islandbridge, Dublin.  This is the Swans fourth national title having also won in 2006, 2010 and 2011 and if you count the South Dublin Eagles 2004 title they are now the winning most team in ARFLI history.

After a good season finishing third in the ladder it was always expected to be a tight tussle against the Redbacks who had beaten us home and away during the regular season.  However after the Swans beat the Leeside Lions away in Cork in the previous week’s semi-final confidence was high for the team that has dominated Irish AFL in recent times.

It was a rather strange week or two for me.  On the eve of the semi-final again Leeside Lions a painful toothache had escalated into a swelling throat and fever meaning I couldn’t play against the Leesiders, worse was to follow as the swelling continued meaning by Sunday morning I could no longer talk or swallow.  At this stage I was a little worried so rushed to A&E and up to today have spent my time there having six days in ICU with a tube down my neck in a very uncomfortable predicament.  The tube was to keep me breathing in case the swelling increased as I fought what was deemed to be a very serious bacterial infection called Ludwig’s Angina.

Welcome to Grand Final Week

So as you can imagine I had a very different focus on Grand Final week.

Redbacks huddle

Note I wasn’t there for the Grand Final so my match report is made up of the snatches of information I gathered subsequently! In the opening quarter the Redbacks stormed out of the blocks kicking four goals to none leaving them 4.3 27 to 0.3 3 at quarter time.  The gap was extended by the end of the second quarter 7.3 45 to 2.7 19 in favour of the athletic hard tackling Ulstermen who must have been now expecting back to back titles and a celebratory trip back up the M1.  However in this quarter the Swans did manage to match the Redbacks kicking rate, but their poorer accuracy meant they were still well behind.

Tipperary’s Tom Russell taking off, Manus Breathnach shepherds as Grayson Stopp follows

Whatever was said at the longest break obviously made a difference as the Swans started to take the game by the horns kicking 6 goals to the Redbacks 1, to turn a 26 point deficit into a 4 point lead, 8.11 59 to 8.6 54.   The final quarter was all Swans as surprisingly the more youthful Redback team seemed to wain the longer the game went on. The Swans adding a further 2 goals and 5 behinds to the Redbacks mere 2 behinds leaving the score at the final siren 10.16 76 to 8.8 56 in favour of the South Dubliners.

It was elation all round for the Swans with recently married captain Mick Hurley emotional in his victory speech (I’m not sure was he but he looks it in the photo!).

Captain Hurley

Best on Ground was Ryan Serocki, one of three Australians on the Swans team.

Rhino giving his well deserved medal to his daughter

The victory wasn’t forgotten on the other side of the world and former and current Sydney Swans players Tadhg Kennelly and Tommy Walsh tweeted their congratulations to the Irish Swans.

Famous Tweets of Congratulations

Swans goal scorers: Richie Dignam 3, Grayson Stopp 3, Ryan Serocki 2, Bobby Byrne 1, Manus Breathnach 1.

2013 ARFLI Champions South Dublin Swans

Lets party

 

James Jamieson and captain Mick Hurley back at Terenure RC

Downunder celebrations from our most recent player coach and general club champion David Scott

All final photos here https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.212275662273265.1073741829.177852145715617&type=1

September 17, 2013 at 10:44 pm Leave a comment

Grand Final Preview

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Saturday is Grand Final day at the AFL European Championships with Ireland Warriors and Great Britain Bulldogs facing off at 4pm at DCU sportsgrounds.   This promises to be an exciting final between teams that are frequent opponents.  The form line for this tournament are the games both teams played against Sweden and Denmark.  GB had a 20 point win over Sweden on Game Day 3 and Ireland eked out a one goal advantage over the Swedes on Game Day 1 when Sweden may have been fresher.   Against Denmark both Ireland and GB had near identical performances, losing for the first three quarters to win by 10 points at the final hooter.

So we are expecting a very close tussle on Saturday that may not be decided until late in the final quarter.   I thought that GB might have an easy final game of their group against Sweden as they had already qualified for the final.  However they couldn’t rest up and had to work hard to secure the victory.  In contrast Ireland were expected to have the tougher game against Croatia.  The Croats could have still qualified for the Grand Final if they won, however the Warriors had an easy victory.

A pivotal player for GB is ruckman Anthony Trigg, who was absent on Thursday but is back for the final.  The big 205cm Melbourne based Trigg who was selected on team of the tournament at the 2011 International Cup.   His battle with Ireland’s inform Paul O’Halloran will be interesting and may decide the outcome of the final.  Other impressive performers for the British team are Mark Ireland and Ian Mitchell.  Sean Walton, who has gained experience playing for the European Legion team against Australia’s elite underage players is another that is expected to have a big impact.  Top scoring forwards are South Cardiff Panthers’ big full forward Chris James and Birmingham Bears’ Sam Willatt and both these players will need to be watched closely by the Irish defence.

Aside from my South Dublin Swan teammate Paul O’Halloran, others that have impressed for Ireland include the captain and follower John O’Regan who has been involved in much of the best play engineered by the home team.  The Irish defence has worked had applying pressure to their opponents with the likes of Derryman Sean Paul Henry and Rebel Conor O’Halloran performing well.   I hope another defender, Eoin O’Suileabhain will be fit for the final after limping off on Tuesday, as his experience from previous European and International Cup competitions would be beneficial.  The forwards have shared the workload with big full forward Brian O’Connell an obvious threat.  Brian’s younger Leeside Lions teammate Muiris Bartley has been a menace to opposition defences with his high energy efforts and another Lion, Brain Roche has made some important contributions, in particular his two goals in the final quarter against Denmark.  Ireland seem to have no shortage of attacking flair and the experienced Kerryman James Flavin, who already has one European Championship medal to his name,  is also expected to be an important forward in the final.

So who is going to win?  Having trained and played with the Warriors for the past three seasons I might be biased, but with their greater experience of playing and winning finals and the home advantage I think the Warriors will sneak it.  However expect a close and full blooded contest as whatever the sport there is never a shortage of commitment when Ireland play their nearest neighbour.

Other games on Saturday are the 5th and 6th place play-off between Croatia and Germany, I expect a repeat of game day 1 with a Croatia victory in what should be a close game.  The 3rd and 4th place game is between neighbours Sweden and Denmark.  Denmark will be very disappointed to not be contesting the final after final quarter hiccups against both GB and Ireland.  They have some fantastic footy players and I expect them to get something from this tournament by winning this game.

So if you can come down on Saturday, game times are 12pm, 2pm and the Grand Final is 4pm.  If you can’t make it watch live on www.aertv.ie

August 9, 2013 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

Euro Champs Round 2 wrap

Round 2 of the European Aussie Rules Championships in DCU, Dublin was a contrast to the wet and windy conditions endured last Saturday, it might even have been described as warm on game day 2 (well warm by Irish standards if not aussie ones).  Now I’ve got the compulsory discussion for an Irishman about the weather out of the way I’ll get down to talking about the footy. The middle day of the group stages had some very competitive clashes and periods of impressive footy.  It was make or break time for some teams and a chance to make the Grand Final for one.  First up were the Croats against the Swedes.  On Sunday Croatia went to support Mayo at the Gaelic Football at Croke Park and even bumped into the All-Ireland trophy, Sam Maguire.

Croatia meets Sam

Croatia meets Sam

Mayo have a tall burly midfielder called Aidan O’Shea who won man of the match on Sunday, looking at Croatia it feels like they have a team of Aidan O’Sheas such is their height and physical presence.  I think Sweden knew they were in a game where ice baths would be needed afterwards.  This was a keenly contested contest from the first bounce with a contrast in styles where Sweden wished to avoid contact and Croatia’s preference for using their height and strength to charge straight down the oval.

Aidan O'Shea (8) on Sunday

Aidan O’Shea (8) on Sunday

Sweden’s greater experience and structure had them ahead for most of the game but then Croatia’s direct approach started to yield goals and they were the width of the goal post away from levelling midway through the final quarter.   However late on Swedish ruckman David Wahlberg goaled to give Sweden a nine point lead before the final siren sounded.   Final score 5.2 32 to 5.11 41. Even though Croatia lost, a win against the Irish Warriors on Thursday evening would see them advance to the Grand Final, so they still have a lot to play for.  Perhaps County Mayo head coach James Horan will be drafted in for words of encouragement before Thursday’s game?

The second game of sunny Tuesday was Great Britain against Germany.  Both team’s have some serious ‘High Towers’ with Great Britain’s Anthony Trigg measuring 205cm tall or 6 foot 10 inches as the Brits would say.  Trigg was picked as the ruckman for the International Cup 2011’s World XVIII team.  He is also playing with Melbourne VFL team Northern Blues only one step below AFL, this is also Carlton’s feeder team and Irish AFL pros Zach Tuohy and Setanta O’Halpin would have learned their trade at the Blues.  However the crafty Germans were prepared for this and had an equally tall ruckman, meaning Trigg never got it easy.  I’m not sure what they feed these guys or is it just that they were stretched on a rack when they were younger?

Welshman Anthony Trigg

Welshman Anthony Trigg

Great Britain always had control of this game against a determined German side.  Trigg did a lot of good work for the winners and Ian Mitchell was spraying some very nice passes from midfield setting up a platform for another giant, South Cardiff Panther’s Chris James to score a tournament high 4 goals.  Not surprisingly Germany had to defend a lot and their full back Fabian Cordts of Hamburg Dockers, who you would swear was an aussie when speaking English repelled team GB time after time in an impressive display. Final score 9.12 66 to 2.3 15.  This result means Great Britain have secured their first ever European Grand Final spot with a game to spare.  They do not know their opponents yet but it could be any team from Pool A.

Ireland Warriors

Ireland Warriors

The final game of the evening was the big clash of the number 1 and 2 seeds, Ireland and Denmark.  They know each other well having contested last year’s Euro Cup final and the 2010 European Championships final with Denmark losing both these games by very narrow margins.  As this game proceeded it looked like the Vikings would get revenge as they opened a 4 goals to none lead at the first break.  They continued their dominance to half time leading 32 to 16.  The Danes were showing greater composure than the Warriors with more accurate kicking and better marking being rewarded on the scoreboard.

At three-quarters time Ireland were still down by 15 points and it didn’t look that promising.  However as Ireland surged in the last quarter Denmark seemed to wilt as they also had done on Game 1 against Great Britain.  Two goals by Corkman Brian Roche, who had a stormer of a final quarter followed by one by the experienced Kerryman James Goose Flavin had Ireland in the lead for the first time in the game.  The icing on the cake was when South Dublin Swans ruckman Paul O’Halloran turned his man to kicked the sealing goal at the siren.  After last year’s Euro Cup final, I said Denmark snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  I think the Danes will feel the same about this one.

James Flavin reaches for the mark

James Flavin reaches for the mark

It was a good days footy with Great Britain in the final and the possibility of either Sweden, Ireland or Croatia joining them.  If the Irish Warriors can beat Croatia on Thursday they are in the Grand Final, however Croatia might have other ideas, hopefully James Horan is busy elsewhere in the coming days….

Watch live match footage on game day here http://www.aertv.ie/#afl-live

Watch replays here http://www.afleurope.org/events-media/watch/

Follow the tournament here www.dublin2013.org

Next fixtures on Thursday all at DCU sports grounds

August 8, 2013Dafllogo2012Denmark VikingsGermanyGermany Black Eagles 3:00 pm
August 8, 2013SwedenSwedish ElksBritainGB Bulldogs 5:00 pm
August 8, 2013Warriors-01Irish WarriorsCroatiaCroatia Knights 7:00 pm

August 7, 2013 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

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