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Wednesday, September 30 2020 @ 07:28 pm ACST

Irish Warriors win Euro Cup in Edinburgh by a point


Our thanks to Lee for contributing his coverage of the tournament which also featured in The Herald Sun newspaper.

Ireland Warriors won their second AFL Europe Euro Cup with a stunning come-from-behind one-point win over Denmark Vikings in Edinburgh on Saturday.

In what AFL Europe general manager Ben MacCormack described as the “best game of Aussie Rules I’ve seen played in Europe”, Ireland trailed the Danes by 11 points with a minute to go.

Then, almost simultaneously, Denmark momentarily dropped its guard, allowing Ireland pounce on the opportunity and blast home two quick goals just seconds from the final siren and win 5.0 (30) to 4.5 (29).

Ireland’s Muiris Bartley was responsible for kicking the match-winning goal.

Former Melbourne Demon Glenn Lovett, now vice-chairman of AFL Europe, awarded medals post-match.

Remarkably, Saturday’s was the second one-point result in Europe in a month after North London Lions beat Wandsworth Demons in a nail-biting AFL London grand final in August.

Those unfamiliar with the Euro Cup format will consider the above scoreline as excessively low, however with 12-minute halves and 9-players a side, half a dozen goals usually netted a win.

Sixteen nations competed at Peffermill Playing Fields, arranged in four Scottish-themed groups: William Wallace, Andy Murray, Chris Hoy and Sean Connery.

Denmark midfielder Aksel Bang – Brian Taylor would have fun with that one – won player of the tournament.

England Dragonslayers also impressed, playing a physical brand of footy, to beat Italy – a vastly improved nation – easily in the final for third place.

A bagpipe player, dressed in a kilt, provided background noise during the exhibition women’s match, in which the Irish Banshees crushed the European Crusaders 13.14 (92) to 8.8 (56).

Not much separated the teams at the last change before the Irish experience got the girls across the line in the last term.

“It just shows just how much the game is developing in Europe across both genders,” MacCormack said of the European Crusaders’ effort.

The feel-good story of the day was the outstanding effort of Norway Trolls, which, in their first Euro Cup, took out the Plate final (second tier final), beating Iceland 6.5 (41) to 1.3 (9).

Midfielder Palle Finnsson, 37, boasts arguably the most impressive footy CV in the Northern Hemisphere.

Born in Iceland, he has over a decade’s experience playing in Denmark, has helped grow the game in France where he worked until recently and has also played in his birth country.

On Saturday, he coached Denmark to runner’s up in the Cup draw as well as playing for Iceland – no mean feat.

“I love footy. Since I started playing it’s been my passion,” he said between matches on Saturday.

“I moved to Paris for work a few years ago but before I moved there I checked if there was an Aussie Rules club. That was the deal breaker. If there was none then I wouldn’t go.

“For me, the game is the perfect mix of skill and contact.

“I just love getting out there and playing a tough game of footy.”

Finnsson, ever the flamboyant showman, topped off his tournament by being awarded the ‘Coach of the Cup’ title and, in typical fashion, gave speeches post-match and at the after function that were met with rousing applause.

There was plenty of incentive for all of the 16 teams to fight it out the whole afternoon with three prizes up for grabs: the Cup, the Plate and the Bowl (third-tier prize).

In the Bowl Grand Final, France 11.8 (74) were too classy for Spain 0.5 (5), which did extremely well to get that far given it had one of the smallest squads.

So meagre were the Spanish numbers that 52-year-old Richard Hart pulled on the boots for another campaign.

The once Old Xavs key position player in Melbourne has lived in Spain for 13 years where he works as a civil engineer and now has a wife and three children.

“I’m very proud to represent Spain in footy,” he said.

“They asked me to play and I said ‘why not?’ The team needs me and it’s a great tournament to be involved in.

Asked if was worried about how the body would hold up he replied: “I had a run last year and pulled up ok so thought I’d be right.”

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