Ireland's Swans go one step further than Sydney's
Thursday, October 12 2006 @ 02:39 am ACST
Contributed by: Brett Northey
The Sydney Swans may have fallen one step short in the AFL this year, but their Irish cousins have completed the great achievement of winning a flag in essentially their first season as a club. It wasn't all good news from the Emerald Isle, as some clubs struggled to get onto the park. The following wrap of the Irish 2006 Aussie Rules season is courtesy of Ireland international John Enright.
The 2006 footie season in Ireland was one of contrast. Some teams struggled while others dominated. Success in International competition was not always reflected in domestic competition and the anticipation and enthusiasm that was so evident in the 2005 season was sadly lacking.
However on the whole it was an exciting and enjoyable year. The Dublin Demons won the second annual Scottish cup in Glasgow and followed it up with the Super 10s competition in Dublin but success eluded the Demons for the rest of the season. The Leeside Lions, for once, ended the season trophy- less and it was the newly named South Dublin Swans that dominated the premiership season.
The year started with the Demons traveling to Glasgow to compete in the Scottish Cup against the Glasgow Sharks and the Edinburgh Bloods. The competition took place on one of the few permanent ovals in Europe and after a frantic, hard fought day of footie the grand final was contested between the Demons and the Edinburgh Bloods. There were Irish national team players on both teams but the friendship was soon forgotten when the sherrin was thrown into the air. This contest was reminiscent of epic battles fought over freedom and independence but the prize here was a trophy no more that 4 inches high. And the teams fought tooth and nail for it! In the end it was the Demons that prevailed and returned to Dublin the following day a happy though hung-over bunch!
Dublins Demons versus Edinburgh (left) and Glasgow (right)
The Demons weren't the only Irish team experiencing international competition as the South Dublin Swans traveled to Scandinavia to compete in the Sheep Station Cup (now the Scania Cup). This is one of the biggest club competitions in Europe and it was the Swan's first appearance in this 9-a-side competition. The boys did themselves proud as they finished second to holders Reading.
In domestic competition the Demons prevailed to take the Super 10s competition with comfortable victories over the rest of the teams. This pre- season tournament is hotly contested every year as teams try to take early bragging rights for the season. The soon to be all-conquering Swans did not compete as they completed their transformation from the Dublin Eagles to the South Dublin Swans. The final of the Super 10s was contested between the Dublin Demons and their old enemy the Leeside Lions. The Demons started strongly and lead going into the turn by 3 goals. It was the Lions that finished the stronger and the Demons barely hung on to secure victory. Two competitions and two victories left the Demons as favourites to win the 2006 ARFLI premiership flag.
The premiership proved to be the straw that broke the Clare Crows footie club. Due to its geographical location it was always going to prove difficult to keep the club going and without the incentive of the International Cup as per last year the club soon became unfeasible. Yet the club and its players were reluctant to withdraw from the competition, as they were optimistic of finding new players. However the club forfeited every game in the competition and the future looks bleak for west coast football.
The premiership favorites, Dublin Demons, started the competition well but struggled badly in mid-season as injury, work and holidays caused key players to miss a number of games. Defeats to the Midland Tigers and the Dublin Saints showed how far the team had fallen and this coupled with defeats to the Swans and Lions gave the Demons its worst run of results in their history. They languished in fourth position on the table after all the rounds had been completed, barely ahead of the Saints on percentage. Some pride was restored in the semi-final game when the Demons fought the red tide but ultimately a disjointed team finished the 2006 season disappointed.
The Lions also experienced an up and down 2006 season. The loss of key players to Gaelic football and the joys of Bondi beach left the team weakened at the start of the year. Their results suffered and the slick oiled machine of 2005 was a distant memory. However their class eventually shone through and they finished a credible second on the ARFLI league table.
The Midland Tigers was one of the few teams that excelled in the 2006 season (Editor: despite it looking early on like they too wouldn't compete this year). With strong numbers and good results the Tigers finished in third spot on the table. Famous wins over the Demons and Lions will live long in the memory of the Tigers football club. Credit for their success must be attributed to their coach Paul "Jaffa" O'Mahony as he strives to form the Tigers into a premiership-winning club.
The Dublin Saints found that the second season for a new club is often harder than their first! The Saints bravely fought on through the year and recorded their first premiership victories with wins over the Tigers and the Demons. There is a good nucleus of players at the club and if they can continue to add to their numbers then the future is bright for the third Dublin team.
And so to the all-conquering South Dublin Swans! What a debut season for the newly named club - undefeated in the league, runner up in the Scania Cup and 2006 ARFLI Premiership champions! Their demolition of the Demons in the semi final and of the Lions in the final indicates how far ahead of everyone else this club is. Their style of footie is a joy to behold with crisp accurate passes, constant movement, a deadly accurate forward line and an unbreakable back line meant that no other club came within 30 points of them all season.
South Dublin in action against Leeside in the Grand Final
South Dublin premiers in 2006
The 2006 season was a victim of the International Cup hangover. The season before, every player and club was pushing to getting a representative on the national team. Players were giving up every weekend in the pursuit of this one goal. As the 2006 season progressed it became evident that the small Irish league was suffering with a lack of interest. However as the season progressed the numbers slowly increased as players began to miss the game and returned to the battle that is Aussie Rules. A measure of our progress as a League, over the two years following the "world cup", may be marked on our result against the BARFL team next month in London, although, this is not always a true barometer.
The future is bright for Aussie Rules in Ireland as the players begin to focus their attentions on the 2008 International Cup. Players that were in Melbourne last year are determined to retain their spots and the new players will be determined to claim one. Roll on 2007!