International Cup wrap and what’s next
It’s been a very busy few weeks in Australia with the Irish Aussie Rules teams, culminating in success for both the Irish Warriors and Banshees. It takes a little while to take it all in and really appreciate the achievement. I’ve been in Melbourne for the week after the final and anyone I’ve spoken to was very impressed that we got to play at the MCG as now days it is reserved for the elite of AFL. They have also been impressed by the tournament and the colour and excitement of having nations from all around the world compete in an Aussie Rules tournament. As current Greater Western Sydney manager and former Essendon and Australia manager Kevin Sheedy said at the Crown Casino at the gala banquet, if only the Brownlow medal event could have this atmosphere.
When I look back at the men’s final it really brought me back to thoughts of sports origins as a more civilised form of tribal warfare. Our opponents Papua New Guinea come from a wild and exotic land where some areas are so remote that they can only be accessed by airplane. I’ve seen documentaries about tribal life in PNG where people live as hunter gatherers like they have for thousands of years. I’m not saying the PNG players have been plucked from isloated villages as many of them play aussie rules in Australia and some are on scholarships with AFL clubs but that culture of tribal warfare is much closer to them than anything the Irish players can relate to. The game itself felt very much like a tribal joust, from the PNG war dance pre-match to the physicality of every PNG challenge and the way they completely steam rolled Ireland in the opening quarter.
However Ireland are not called the Warriors for nothing and they showed their own fighting spirit to claw their way back into the game. They were greatly assisted by best on ground Kerryman Mick Finn. As the game progressed Ireland slowly gained more of a foothold as PNG began to fade. It was like the Grand National with the long time leader tiring after the last jump as the teams reached the famous Aintree elbow. At 192cm Mick Finn may be too tall to be a jockey but he pushed Ireland over the line kicking four crucial goals on the day.
I’m on the flight home as I write this and I’m watching the 2002 Grand Final between Collingwood and Brisbane Lions. It’s funny how this is on as the first Aussie Rules player I met was Pies captain on the day, Nathan Buckley. After the International Rules in Dublin in the late nineties I brought him and the rest of the Aussie International Rules squad on a tour of Dublin’s late night drinking bars. Also playing that day were Anthony Rocca and Simon Prestigiacomo. I have been training with them at Melbourne Northern League reigning premiers West Preston Lakeside alongside Irish player and Westmeath man Brendan Nannery. It’s a small world.
The season is far from over in Irish Aussie Rules. My club South Dublin Swans have a semi-final to contest on Saturday week and on the second weekend in October the EuroCup is being stages in Belfast. This is a 9 aside competition for European nations. Surprisingly Ireland are not the holders of the crown as last year the height of Croatia were victorious in Italy. As International Cup champions we will be expected to do the double in 2011.
Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: AFL, Anthony Rocca, Aussie Rules, International Cup 2011, Irish Banshees, Irish Warriors, Kevin Sheedy, Mick Finn, Papua New Guinea, Simon Prestigiacomo, t Preston Lakeside.