Contributed by: Peter ParryWFN has reported on International rules matches around the world. Apart from the AFL v GAA senior and under 17 matches, International Rules matches have been played by amateur clubs, increasingly on an annual basis, in at least 23 cities across Australia, Ireland, USA, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, China, Singapore and Japan. That is probably not an exhaustive list. This article reports on the first series that we know of in England, where Reading, west of London, has become the scene of what is set to be a regular 3 match annual series.
St Anthony's GAA club in Reading and the Reading Roos share adjacent grounds that has helped forge the partnership. They are also two of the more progressive clubs in developing under age football in Gaelic football and Aussie rules in England.
Thanks to Tim Birchall of St Anthony's for much of the following information.
The relationship between St Anthony’s and Reading Kangaroos has grown strongly over the past few years. Both teams play on adjoining pitches at Kings Meadow in Reading and that is how the initial contacts were made. In March of 2004, members of both clubs joined together to run in the Reading half marathon for a local charity. By the summer, members of the St Anthony’s team were making occasional appearances in the Roos side and Adelaide native Dave Manhood starred in the London Junior (nb: "Junior" in GAA means 3rd division not underage) Gaelic football final in the Anthony’s midfield.
The 2004 summer also saw the first meeting between the two sides in the International Rules code. A second game followed in March this year in aid of the Tsunami appeal. This summer has seen regular appearances of 4 or 5 St Anthony’s players in the Roos side which competed in the London League for the first time. Roos players have also played their part in helping St Anthony’s reach the championship semi final and league final.
In order to help cement the current relationship between the clubs, and to help ensure the relationship lasts for years to come, the idea of a three match International rules series to be played every year was born. Martin O’Sullivan, chairman of St Anthony’s and landlord of The Gateway pub in Reading kindly agreed to sponsor the trophy which is to be called The Jim Stynes Cup in tribute the player who most successfully switched codes.
Anthony’s were quickest out of the blocks registering an over and a goal from Liam Walsh before Brent Barton got the Roos off the mark with an over. The First quarter remained tight with scores thin on the ground – Dave Stankard and Barton traded overs to leave Anthony’s 6 points up at the break. The second quarter continued where the first left off with both sides playing a cagey brand of football. Walsh converted a free to put Anthony’s 9 points in front, and Dave Stankard added another before Brent Barton goaled to bring the Roos back into the game. Brendan Rice overed to increase Anthony’s lead again but Jeff Hull kept the Roos in touch with a fine solo over. The third quarter was proved to be pivotal in the outcome of the game with St Anthony’s registering 2 goals and three overs to the Roos single over. Strong defensive play from Bart Ballentine helped restrict the Roos scoring chances whilst at the far end, the likes of Rice and Seamus Mc Keown made the most of all of the scoring chances that came their way. The Roos managed to create more score chances in the fourth quarter than the third but struggled to master the round ball at times, with Bronte Munzer and Zach Hambour going close with chances. Barton converted one of the 3 or 4 goal chances the Roos had in the fourth quarter, but St Anthony’s had the last word through an over from Timmy Birchall which left the final score St Anthony’s 60, Reading Kangaroos 30 giving St Anthony’s a 1-0 lead in the series.
Best on ground for St Anthony’s was half forward Liam Walsh who scored 2 goals and 2 overs. Best for the Roos was Brent Barton who registered 2 goals and one over.
Game 2 levels the series:
It was the Roos who won the second game on a scoreline of 33-24. The game featured a lot more close checking of opponents and plenty of running back to flood defences and scoring chances were few. The Roos were boosted by their returning players from the 2nd International Cup of Australian Football in Melbourne and it showed as they were more physical in the tackles and won more of the ball in midfield. Brent Barton was again best of the Roos scoring their opening goal and creating a lot of their chances. Best for St Anthony's on the day was Captain Colm Black.
Game 3 to decide the series The decider to see who takes hold of the Jim Stynes Cup for the inaugural year will be played on 29th October. The match has had to be repeatedly put back as St Anthony's progressed through the London GAA knock out championship rounds to eventually take the Junior (div3) Gaelic Football title. Perhaps the extra match hardening against their Aussie rules neighbours helped towards their championship success.
So the hybrid game has come to England. It raises the question of who would win were the BARFL with hundreds of players to take on a combined British GAA side with a few thousand players. A quite high standard match could be seen, which could be a promotional angle for both codes in the UK. See previous article "Inter-Rules" - The Future? (from 2004).
Around the world there are other cups and trophies for similar International Rules Series. The traditionalists in Ireland and Australia who say the GAA and AFL are wasting their time should perhaps ponder that the hybrid concept is bringing a lot of fun and camaraderie in so many places. Even though in its infancy along with the spread of Gaelic and Aussie rules clubs, International rules football no longer seems such a presumptuous name as they think.
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