Contributed by: Peter Parry
The GAA news website Hoganstand reports Ireland has selected its manager (coach) for this years International Rules Series. The job has gone to Sean Boylan, who in a reign to rival that of the Essendon and Australia coach Kevin Sheedy, guided power Gaelic football county, Meath, from 1982 to 2005. Indeed in the era of modern football codes it would be difficult to find two coaches worldwide who could compare with single club reigns like Boylan's 23 years with Meath and Sheedy with his 25 years at Essendon. Yet to be built floodlighting should also add a new dimension to the series for the Irish, and the two countries have confirmed that the series will continue on an annual basis for the next two years (2006 and 2007).
Sheedy has taken Essendon to 4 AFL premierships since taking over as Bombers coach in 1981. During the same period Boylan has led Meath to 4 All-Ireland championships and 3 National League titles, not bad considering there's twice as many counties in the GAA system as clubs in the AFL. Just last month he was the first ever resident of county Meath to be granted the title "Freeman of the County of Meath".
There's several aspects of interest to this year's series, but to have two coaches with virtually the same legendary records is certainly going to be one of them.
Other aspects will be the new disciplinary procedures and whether the play is free enough from violent incidents to satisfy the loud conservative lobby within the GAA who wouldn't mind to see the whole hybrid concept abandoned. To some extent the conservative opposition to the series in Ireland is based around the idea that Gaelic football in its pure form is a game of speed and skill and the rougher play of the hybrid detracts from this free and fluid style. The opponents of the concept amongst AFL fans also tend to be traditionalist as a rule, but ironically though not illogically the opposition to the hybrid game is because it is seen as "too soft" - without traditional shirtfront and hip and shoulder bumps.
The 2 rule changes have been mooted before but are now official as of a meeting between GAA and AFL officials in Dubai:
1. Any player guilty of a red card offence will automatically be sent off for the rest of the game with no replacement, and a penalty kick awarded to the opposition. A tribunal hearing will then determine any further penalty, with a minimum of a one-match suspension for any guilty verdict.
2. Any player guilty of a yellow card offence will be sent off for 15 minutes, with a replacement allowed. If a player receives two yellow cards, he will be sent off for the rest of the game with no replacement. There will be no penalty kick in either of these circumstances. A tribunal hearing will then determine any further penalty.
The yellow card rule is actually more lenient than some in the GAA were calling for.
With the future of the series possibly in the balance there is likely to be added tension in the stands and on the field as to whether the players can keep tempers from fraying in what is a lightening quick and aerobically draining sport. Perhaps to help reduce this, the AFL and GAA also agreed in Dubai to a video package clarifying the rules - for umpires, players, fans and presumably Sheedy and Boylan as well.
Also reported in Thursday's Irish Independent, Croke Park, the main GAA stadium in Dublin, has received initial council approval for the installation of floodlights. This gives time hopefully for installation by 4th November and the Second Test. A Saturday night match is sought by the AFL to broadcast the Tests back to Australia in a Sunday sunrise rather than unfriendly Monday 1 AM timeslot. The first Test is also likely to be a night game, on Saturday 28th October, and will provide another aspect of interest to this year's series with a move to Galway in the west of Ireland and 34,000 capacity Pearse stadium - as reported on sport.ie. Pearse stadium has also received approval for floodlight installation.
In related news the AFL and GAA gave agreed to "raise the age of international rookie recruits out of Ireland from 2007, after concerns from the GAA that Irish youngsters are being recruited by AFL clubs at too young an age".
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