Euro Champs Round 1 Review

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The AFL European Championships opened on Saturday in showery windy conditions that made ball handling difficult at times.  The opening game between Denmark and Great Britain had a surprise result with 2010 Euro Championship fourth GB overturning 2010 runners-up Denmark.  It might have been the first time Ireland played for Great Britain with Sheffield Thunder’s Mark Ireland being a goal scorer.  The Danes led for the first three quarters but GB pushed on in the final quarter to win 7.1 43 to 4.9 33.  I didn’t see much of this game because of tournament duties but from the score board it seems the Danes were wasteful in front of goal with GB being very accurate kicking just one behind.  The result now means Great Britain are on track for the Grand Final but the Danes will now have to beat Ireland on Tuesday to retain hope of advancing.

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Game two was hosts Ireland against Sweden.  Conditions were difficult in this game with some heavy rain at times making good footy difficult.  It was the lowest scoring game of the three played with Ireland winning by a slim margin of one goal 3.4 22 to 2.4 16.  The Irish goals came from Derryman Sean Paul Henry, Co Cork’s Brian Stretch O’Connell and the Kingdom’s Vince Manning.  Irish head coach Shaun McElhone will be thankful to come away with a win in a game that was always close.  Another win will be required against the stung Denmark Vikings on Tuesday to keep Ireland’s Grand Final ambitions on track.  Ireland defender Kevin McSorley was yellow carded near the end of this game and after a tribunal hearing will miss Tuesday’s clash with the Danish Vikings.

The final game of the day was Croatia against Germany.  The Croats sporting some unusual haircuts opened the game with wind advantage and a flurry of goals with six coming in the opening quarter.  Croatia forward Ivan Ivos was one player that impressed with his strong marking and accurate kicking and with three goals currently leads the golden boot competition.  In the second quarter with the wind the Germans recovered kicking 3.2 without reply to reduce the deficit to three goals at half time.  The second half of the game was keenly contested but defences become more frugal only coughing up 3 more goals between both teams, final score 7.5 47 to 5.3  33.  As I expected the Croats are a strong, tall and very athletic team. I was impressed with there marking and accurate goal kicking and they look like they will trouble any team they play.  After a slow start the Germans found their rhythm and put together some fine passages of play.  The Germans will be disappointed to lose but encouraged by their competitiveness and will look forward to Tuesday’s meeting with Great Britain.

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A great innovation for this tournament is that the matches are being transmitted live and can also be watched later on youtube.  This allows us all review a game as it can be a bit of a blur in real time.  It will be interesting to see how coaches use this extra information to identify team’s key players and patterns of play.  Having watched the Ireland Sweden game again and talked to some of the Irish players they found their isn’t much time on the ball as players are pressing the opposition constantly and the relatively small size of the oval means there aren’t that many open spaces to charge into.

Saturday wasn’t ideal conditions for footy as it was both windy and wet.  My iphone weather app states it will be highs of 21C and sunny for the rest of the week, so fingers crossed for players, spectators and volunteers that the weather will behave!

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 Tuesday all DCU sports grounds

August 6, 2013SwedenSwedish ElksCroatiaCroatia Knights3:00 pm
August 6, 2013BritainGB BulldogsGermanyGermany Black Eagles5:00 pm
August 6, 2013Warriors-01Irish WarriorsDafllogo2012Denmark Vikings7:00 pm

August 4, 2013 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

AFL Euro Champs – Teams Form Guide

There are five nations competing against Ireland in the 2013 AFL European Championships.  Here I attempt to produce a from guide for the sides.

Germany Black Hawks

I played against Germany at the last two Euro Cups (annual 9 aside European competition).  They have some strong players and in last year’s Euro Cup quarter final caused us lots of bother in the first half.  They may be developing at a full-sided nation but could be a surprise packet.

Player to watch: Jakob Jung

Croatia Knights

Apparently the tallest people in the world, a sure advantage in Aussie Rules they are a proud sporting nation and will leave nothing on the line when it comes to being competitive.  They have played many tournaments in Europe and have been competitive.  In 2011 they were beaten finalists in the Euro Cup and won it in 2010 beating Ireland in the semi-final.  They are being coached by Ireland’s Ciaran O’Hara so they should be a well structured team.

Player to watch: Tomi Cvetko

Sweden Elks

Swedish coach Dan McClaer says they are some really good athletes in the Swedish squad and although the size of the country can make squad meet ups difficult they go into this tournament with a decent chance of lifting the cup.  Their first game is against the Irish and this will probably decide if they make the final.  Sweden are experienced, by European terms in playing the full sided game and they have been to International Cups in Australia.  Ireland’s last meeting with Sweden was in the group stages of the 2011 International Cup where the Irish had a convincing win.

Player to watch: Erik Sahlin

Great Britain Bulldogs

Great Britain Bulldogs are the team Ireland know most about having played each other frequently due to our proximity.  In particular in the Euro Cup there have been some real close encounters with Ireland winning by very narrow margins in the last two Euro Cup semi-finals.  However full-sided footy is a different game.  Ireland have played GB twice this year as warm ups for this competition.  In the first meeting in early April at the Surrey Sports Grounds GB were convincing winners.  In the return fixture in Dublin Ireland won 58 to 22.   Probably the strongest league outside of Australia is the London league with teams packed full of aussies, a GB qualified player training and playing in this league should have a significant advantage in terms of improvement.  Their chances of lifting the cup will be decided on their day 1 encounter with Denmark.

Player to watch: Luke Booth

Denmark Vikings

The Danes are second seeds for this tournament and have really given Ireland some scares in recent times.  They were runners-up to Ireland in the 2010 European Championships in a close contest and last September should have beaten Ireland in the Euro Cup final only for Ireland to get two goals inside the last minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  What is impressive about Denmark is their skills.  I think they have an 18 round club league in Denmark and the extra games obviously benefit the national players.

Player to watch: Jens Djernes

Ireland Warriors

The players I know most about, they have won every trophy available to an international team in the past years.  This includes the 2010 European Championships, the 2011 International Cup and the 2011 and 2012 Euro Cups.  However there are only 7 players remaining from the 2010 European winners and only 5 (Eoin O’Suilleabhain, James Flavin, John Enright, Ger Walls and Gerald Lenihan) from the 2011 International Cup team so this squad has limited experience of playing the full sided game.  This was demonstrated in the beating they took away to GB Bulldogs in April.  Home advantage will help but the Irish will have to be at the top of their game to win this tournament.  Denmark look like the biggest obstacle to a home victory but GB could also be a real threat.  We’ll know more about everyone’s ability after day 1 on Saturday.

Player to watch: Paul O’Halloran

August 1, 2013 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

Visiting Dublin for the Euros – Days Off

If you are coming to Dublin next week for the tournament as a player, mentor or fan you might like some tips from a local on what to do on days when there is no footy.  Dublin is an exciting, compact city full of tourist attractions and is buzzing all year but especially in summer.  Here’s my tips, although not a Dub I’ve lived here long enough to give you a good steer.

Sunday – Croke Park All-Ireland Football Quarter Finals

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After you’ve recovered from game day 1, had your protein gone to the sea to recover etc. it’ll be time to see some Gaelic Football.  Luckily at this time of year for sports fans the Gaelic Football season is reaching the critical period.  On Sunday in Croke Park (the MCG of Gaelic Games) there is a double header of football quarter-finals.  The traditional kingpins of Gaelic Football, Kerry take on Cavan and then reigning All-Ireland champions Donegal take on last year’s beaten finalists Mayo.  There may be reduced priced tickets for tournament attendees, ask around DCU on Saturday.

Monday – City Centre

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After the excitement of the Gaelic Football you might like to chill a little on Monday.  Wander up Grafton Street and watch the street artists.  If you have cash to burn drop into Brown Thomas to get designer fashion.  If the weather is nice go for a stroll around St Stephens Green.  No trip to Dublin would be complete without a visit to Guinness and maybe if you like your whiskey try the Jameson Distillery also.  You can use the city bikes to get around quickly and rest the legs for game days.

Wednesday – See the Sea

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Maybe you like the sea air more than the city smoke?  Today might be a good day to visit the sea.  Dublin is built on a bay and either end of the bay provides great views of sky, sea and mountain.  I’d recommend getting on the DART (urban train) and going to either Howth or Dalkey.  Both are beautiful places but I’ll talk about Howth as I was there on a cycle this evening.  Howth is like an island but it is actually a peninsula with a narrow strip of land connecting it to the mainland.  It is a fishing town and you can get great fish and chips here.  Once off the DART after wandering around the harbour area I recommend heading along the cliff walk to Howth Summit.  This is a lovely walk that feels a million miles away from the hustle of the city.  Being Ireland once you reach the summit as well as being rewarded with fantastic views of Dublin Bay and the Wicklow mountains there is also a pub to rest your legs.  If you don’t want to walk back you can get a bus back to the DART station.

Friday – The Aga Khan at the RDS Horse Show

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The RDS Horse Show is one of the most famous horse events in the world.  Ireland is known for it’s horses and horsemen and the show represents the pinnacle of equine talent.  The Aga Khan Trophy is presented to the winning show jumping team in the Nations’ Cup competition, where teams of four compete over two rounds with the nation with least faults winning.  Eight nations will compete France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, the Ukraine and the USA.  So as you are already kitted out in your national colours it’s worth cheering on your nation if they are jumping.  I’ll actually be working here on Friday (fitting a lot into my week).  The RDS is only a short distance south of the city centre, take a bus or the DART to get there.  More information here http://www.dublinhorseshow.com/

July 30, 2013 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment

Ireland ready for 2013 European Aussie Rules Championships

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The biggest single event ever in Irish Aussie Rules is nearly upon us. The second AFL Europe Championship will take place at DCU Sportsground, Dublin from August 3rd to 10th.  My local club South Dublin Swans will have three players on the 26 man Irish squad, ruckman Paul O’Halloran, defender Shane Liddy and forward Bobby Byrne.  Unfortunately I miss out having dislocated my shoulder on May 27th, the championships are probably a week too soon for me to prove my fitness.  The Irish Warriors are the reigning champions having won the 2010 tournament in Sweden and then went on to win the 2011 International Cup in the MCG in Melbourne.

The six nations competing are the best Aussie Rules playing nations in Europe.  They are Ireland, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Croatia.  Ireland are favourites based on current rankings but are expected to be challenged hard for the title by the very consistent Danes and the strong GB and Swedish teams.  Both Croatia and Germany are expected to be athletic teams with plenty of height around the oval and could spring a surprise or two.  There is clear evidence the rest of Europe is rapidly catching up with Ireland with more players dedicating themselves to the sport.  Last September Ireland were fortunate winners of the Euro Cup 9 aside tournament being pushed to the siren by both England and the Danes who somehow lost a game they looked certain to win after a very late goal by Corkman Muiris Bartley.  Also this spring at the Surrey Sports Grounds the Great Britain Bulldogs had a convincing win over an understrength Irish team although the result was reversed in the return fixture in Islandbridge in April.

I think this tournament is a great opportunity to showcase Aussie Rules in Ireland.  The Irish national team have had some magnificent results on foreign shores in recent years and now there’s a chance for the Irish sporting public to support this winning team.  Many people have seen the game on TV but this is a chance to see the game up close.

All tournament news and details can be found at the official website www.dublin2013.org. Anyone wishing to purchase their tickets for the championship can also do so at the official site.  Although it looks like I’ll be busy volunteering next week I plan to have match day blogs during the tournament to update everyone on events in DCU.

July 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

Irish eyes are smiling once more

The victorious South Dublin Swans teammates

What a fantastic weekend in Edinburgh for the 2012 AFL Euro Cup.  The Warriors robbed the cup from Denmark in a last gasp theft by unusual suspect Muiris Bartley.  Perhaps it was justice for the many years the Vikings came from Denmark to pillage Ireland.  The women’s team, the Banshees also played a game against a European selection eventually winning after a close tussle.  What was encouraging from this game was its competitive nature with some impressive players and skills shown by both sides.

Match day began for me at the unearthly hour of 6:50am.  After some Sun Warrior activated barley, some granola and a banana I had enough good low GI foods to keep me well powered for the day ahead.  We were at the grounds by 8am and there was frost on the ground!  However the sun was out and there was no wind.  Our first game was at 9am against Finland. I had a kick about on Thursday with one of their team, Freddie Romar, as he is also a South Dublin Swan, however I didn’t give away any team secrets and we beat them comfortably. Wins followed against Spain and the Czech Republic, who were in the competition for the first time.

At this stage we had a good break before our quarter-final so we all had some more food and a little rest.  Our next opponents were Germany.  They put up a fair fight in the first half of the game but we ran over them in the second half.  Our semi-final was against England.  An age old rivalry if ever there was one, the English came very close to beating the Warriors last year in this tournament and they had a very professional preparation, having played two international nine-a-side tournaments in recent weeks.  The English started better and had the lead in the first half.  In these games of only 24 minutes every score is important as there isn’t much time to recover from a slow start.  However we clawed back the lead with particular spirit shown by Rebel Eoin O’Suilleabhain.  Final score; England 4.1(25) Ireland 7.4(46).

So the final was a repeat of the 2010 European 16-a-side final against the Danish Vikings.  Denmark has one of the oldest leagues in Europe and their players are experienced with an average of about 65 games per player.  Nine players were in the International Cup 2011 squad.  This experience was far greater than some of the Warriors and this told in the game as we struggled to contain the fast and accurate Danes.  The men in red and white led at the break and it really looked bleak for us as with only 60 seconds on the clock we were still 11 points in arrears.  However a goal on the run from the ever reliable John O’Regan gave us a lifeline and after winning the next centre bounce the ball ended in Cork blonde bombshell Muiris Bartley’s grasp whose nerveless kick from an tight angle to the left of centre went between the big posts to put us 1 point up.  There was time for no more, we had robbed the Danes, but no one ever remembers how you win only that we did it!  It was a comeback the late great Jim Stynes, who we remembered on the Irish guernsey would have been proud of, final score; Denmark 4.5(29) Ireland 5.0(30)

back row l to r: Paul Redmond, Bobby Byrne, David Lally, Ryan McCloskey, Kevin McSorley, Gerard Walls, Sean McElhone (coach), Sean McMahon, Sean Paul Henry, John O’Regan, Kevin O’Brien, Richie Duignam

front row l to r: Eoin O’Suilleabhain, Peter Ross, Muiris Bartley, John Enright, Kevin Brennan, Paul Ryan (manager).

Personally I feel very sorry for the Danes, but after losing this year’s Irish Aussie Rules League Premiership semi-final by a slim margin I didn’t want to experience that feeling again this year.  So we won and I’m delighted to have a very impressive looking winner’s medal and be a Euro Cup champion.  The closeness of the top teams also means next year’s full sized European Championships being hosted in Dublin next summer will be very exciting.

At the medal presentation AFL Europe coordinator Ben McCormack said the final was the best game of footy he had seen in Europe.  Former Melbourne Demon star Glen Lovett was on hand to award the medals.  At the awards function later that night two Irish players were selected on the team of the tournament, midfielders Kevin O’Brien and Ger Walls.  My teammate from the Europe Crusaders last year, Luke Booth playing for England this year also got a team of tournament guernsey.

My wife and team chiropractor Tammy and me, special thanks to Tammy for having me 110% for the tournament.

The best looking medal I’ve ever won

The winners and runners up

The winning Irish Banshees

Close up of Jim Stynes Melbourne number 11 guernsey on the Irish guernsey

Making it into Melbourne’s highest selling daily the Herald Sun, http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/irish-warriors-beats-denmark-vikings-to-win-euro-cup-in-edinburgh/story-fn9eu7in-1226480233036?sv=5d73f1e6c1c081b2bb72aa6fed41e801 right beside the report of the Sawns defeat of the Magpies, funny enough the other story in this image is about Heidelburg losing the Melbourne Northern Football League Grand Final. Irish Aussie Rules star Mick Finn and hero of the 2011 IC Grand Final plays for them.

September 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm Leave a comment

Warriors ready for Edinburgh

The Irish Warriors Aussie Rules Football team travel to Edinburgh on the 22nd of September to compete in the Euro Cup nine a side tournament.  The Euro Cup is designed to be played on the dimensions of a rugby or soccer pitch making it a more accessible game across the whole of Europe where ovals are a rarity. The tournament was hosted in Belfast last year and the Irish had a hard fought victory over a powerful and tall Croatia team in the final.  This year’s tournament sees 16 nations competing representing nearly every corner of Europe from Nordics such as Iceland to Spain and Italy on the Med.  In the qualifying round number two seeds Ireland have been drawn against Spain, Finland and the Czech Republic.

I’m delighted to be selected for the Irish team this year having played for the European Crusaders in last year’s tournament.  The team is a mixture of new players and experience with management trying to blood players for next year’s European Championships being held in Dublin and retain a core of experienced players.  From last year’s winning team only six players return, they are captain Dave Lally, Kevin McSorley, Ryan McCloskey, Muiris Bartley, Bobby Byrne and John O’Regan.  Four players won medals at the International Cup in Australia last August, Ger Walls, Eoin O’Suilleabhain, John Enright and team of the tournament player Kevin O’Brien who is now based in London having moved from Western Australia.  There are five players making their debut in the Irish jumper this weekend, Redbacks pair Sean McMahon and Sean Paul Henry, Swans duo Richie Duignam and Kevin Brennan and Demons dynamo Paul Redmond.

Full Team

Kevin McSorley (Belfast Redbacks)

Ryan McCloskey (Belfast Redbacks)

Gerard Walls (Belfast Redbacks)

Sean McMahon (Belfast Redbacks)

Sean Paul Henry (Belfast Redbacks)

Muiris Bartley (Leeside Lions)

Eoin O’Suilleabhain (Leeside Lions)

Peter Ross (South Dublin Swans)

Bobby Byrne (South Dublin Swans)

Kevin Brennan (South Dublin Swans)

Richie Dignam (South Dublin Swans)

John O’Regan (MidWest Magpies)

John Enright (Dublin Demons)

David Lally (Dublin Demons)

Paul Redmond (Dublin Demons)

Kevin O’Brien (London)

Team captain David Lally is a talented designer and this year’s jersey designed by David will feature an imagine of the Melbourne Demons’ jersey worn by Dublin born Aussie Rules great Jim Stynes.  Jim was a pioneer for Irish people in Aussie Rules, inspiring others to follow in his footsteps in the professional game and most certainly inspiring the founders of the Irish league and its member clubs.  Jim’s ashes were scattered in the Wicklow Mountains last week by his wife Sam and it is only fitting he is remembered on the national team’s jersey.

The Irish women’s team, the Banshees will also travel to Edinburgh. This year will see them play a European Crusaders’ team made up of players from Scotland, England, France and Italy.  Follow Ireland’s progress in the tournament on http://www.afleurope.org.

September 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment

Euro Cup weekend Belfast

Last Saturday ARFLI hosted the Euro Cup in Belfast at Queens University’s very impressive sports grounds at Dub Lane.  The Euro Cup is a 9 a-side tournament for European nations playing aussie rules.  This tournament is an annual opportunity for the European AFL community to come together and compete.

Unlike the International Cup where only 5 European nations made the trip to Australia there were 18 men’s teams at this event and 2 women’s teams.  This included the whole of Scandinavia, Latinos such as Italy and Spain and sensible central Europeans such as Germany and Austria.  I was lucky enough to be involved playing with the European Crusaders.  The Crusaders are a mix of players from around Europe that come together for this tournament made up of players not playing for their national squads or from nations that did not send a team to the Euro Cup.

At the start of the day the only Crusaders players I knew were club mate Marty Ryan, Dublin Demon’s David Walsh and Kangaroo’s Pat Leavy.  The other players came from England, Wales, Finland and the Czech Republic.  Luckily we also had a great manager in Andrew Hickey, a man who guided the Irish Banshees to International Cup success this year.

Our day opened with a pool game against Austria.  Having no really tall players I was picked in the ruck against a taller Austrian.  However I held my own and we ran out comfortable winners 31 to 2.

Europe Crusaders

 Next up was going to be the much stiffer challenge of the Irish Warriors.  Although none of the players that competed in Australia were included it was going to be a big game for us against the eventual tournament winners.  We competed well although had a significant height disadvantage.  Not surprisingly the Warriors had a comfortable 55 to 7 victory.  Still is was a good experience for the non-Irish guys on the team to see the level required to compete at the top of the tournament.

After that game we had a break for about two hours.  It had been a wet morning and my gear and boots were soaking wet so hanging around in damp gear stiffening up wasn’t the best, however a hot cuppa and a sandwich recharged me for the afternoon.  Having finished second in our group we were now in the plate competition.  Our quarter-final plate opponents were Germany. I hadn’t seen them in the morning but they looked athletic and had beaten Sweden already that day.  We were starting to gel better as a team as the day progressed and won 35 to 14.  This meant we were in the semi-final against Spain.  We had played one extra game to Spain at this stage as they had a better seeding coming in the plate.  On a wet day when it takes it out of the legs this is a disadvantage but we open brightly and led at half-time.  However as the second half progressed Spain came back getting some fine wind assisted long-range goals.  They were playing just like there world champion soccer amigos playing a possession game and passing the ball around to run down the clock near the end.  They beat us in the end by 33 to 23.

We were due one more game to decide 9th or 10th rank position against Russia however Russia had too many wounded players to field so we got the game.  Strangely I was glad to stop at this stage as my body was sore by now and was looking forward to a hot shower.  So our finally ranking was 9th which I think is the Crusaders best ever tournament ranking.  It’s amazing how sport can bond a group of guys that don’t know each other in the morning to great buddies by the end of the day.  Although we may not have had the collective skills or fitness of some of our opponents there is no doubt we excelled in terms of courage and commitment.

A special word of thanks to my wife Tammy who turned me from someone who could hardly walk on Friday to someone able to play four tough games on Saturday.  I didn’t think I’d make it through the day but thanks to the wonders of chiropractic I did!

As I mentioned already the Warriors won the tournament beating reigning champions Croatia in the final.  The Banshees were also there playing Switzerland.  It was an easy win for the girls in green against an inexperienced Swiss side.  However this tournament wasn’t so much about winning as bringing together people from many different European cultures all passionate about a sport with its origins far away from these shores.

October 10, 2011 at 9:45 pm Leave a comment

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