Grand Final Preview
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