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.
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/