Now that the pre-season action of the Rebel Shield, Leprechaun Cup and this weekend’s AFL Europe Champions League in Amsterdam are done, the eyes of Ireland will turn to the new AFL Ireland domestic seasons.
The draw for the 2019 men’s season was released this week. In a revamp of the competition, each round will return to two venues with two home teams, replacing the more recent format of small round robins hosted by clubs across Ireland.
The release of the women’s 2019 season draw will follow soon.
The ALFA Lions have downed the Cergy-Pontoise Coyotes this weekend and in the process have all but secured another finals battle. Disappointed they missed the finals last season, the Lions had set their target to see finals this season. Now they have effectively done so and can prepare for the next phase of the season.
That phase will be a “top of the table” clash with the Paris Cockerels in the final round. There could be no better preparation going into finals that a clash with another potential grand finalist. Their biggest advantage is that the clash will be at their home ground Lyon.
Their victory against the Cergy-Pontoise Coyotes by 36 points had two effects. Firstly, it locked in their own finals booking, but it also placed the Coyotes in a dangerous situation.
It can only be a matter of time before a UCC Bombers incarnation becomes a fully-fledged AFL Ireland team. Whilst still a university team, the Bombers showed again they have the talent to compete at a higher level, downing the Leeside Lions for the first time since 2017 in the Rebel Shield’s second leg.
The following is a small article from the Leeside Lions Facebook page, detailing the day.
In a fixture that traditionally marks the start of the AFL season in Cork and the closing of the college season. The Rebel shield again failed to disappoint. With the Lions holding a 17 point advantage over their opponents the UCC Bombers from the first leg a fast start was needed by the Bombers to breathe life into their challenge and fast start is exactly what they got racing into a four goals to one lead in the first quarter.
Belfast Redbacks last weekend hosted the Leprechaun Cup for men and women. The tournament is the big season catalyst needed for clubs ahead of the start of the AFL Ireland season which isn’t far away. The following report from the Belfast Redbacks details the day with all scores, with the host team, the Redbacks, taking the men’s title and the University Shamrocks the women’s.
Saturday 23rd of March saw the annual Leprechaun Cup being held at Boucher Road playing fields with 5 men's teams and 4 women's taking to the field of play.
The London Swans and South East London Giants made the trip over from across the water and fielded teams in both the men's and women's competitions. The Galway Magpies, the South Dublin Swans and the Belfast Redbacks brought the number of men's team to five.
The girls from the newly formed West Lothian Eagles made the trip to Belfast for the first time and the last team in the ladies competition was the Irish University Shamrocks team.
The following extract is from an excellent story by Ellie Honeybone at ABC Great Southern looking in depth at the popularity of Australian Rules football in Europe, driven heavily by the uptake of the game by women across Europe.
A growing number of women and men are signing up to play Australian Rules in Europe and there are hopes a women-only league will be established in Switzerland in the next few years.
Katherine Dellar spent her childhood playing AusKick with the boys, and played Australian Rules for the Australian National University in Canberra.
When the 30-year-old moved to Switzerland 18 months ago she had no idea the sport would once again become part of her life.
"Geneva has a large expat population, a lot of those are Australians, and I heard via word-of-mouth about people who were trying to get an AFL team together," Ms Dellar said.
Weekend results in France have certainly fallen in favour of the ALFA Lions. Locked in a battle for a place in this season’s finals, the Lions needed a couple of things to fall in their favour with just three rounds remaining of the season. First of all, they gained the points after the Stade Toulousain team forfeited their match.
The club are on a mission to recapture their premiership form from two seasons ago and stated, “we [have] got strong ambition this season as the last one [2017/18] was very disappointing for us.”
Certainly the points for the forfeit help, but so do other results from the weekend.
The Paris derby saw the Paris Cockerels further enhance their premiership credentials by downing their siblings the Paris Cockatoos. The Cockatoos are also deep in the hunt for a finals spot, and their defeat to the Cockerels will hurt, putting them back with the pack fighting for finals spots.
“Ducky? I’m not really sure, it’s just a family nickname I was given as a child. You might have to ask my mother! However, one of my earliest memories is of my brother teaching me how to solo on the run in the back garden when I was like three or four years old. He had me running around my mother’s washing basket which was almost the same height as me!”
And so begins the interview with Ailish Considine, recruited by the Adelaide Crows last year after she impressed enough to catch the eye of recruiters at the CrossCoders program. Like so many before her, Ailish has a story of curiosity which became desire, commitment and now success.
Her journey began in Ireland, “playing with West Clare Waves at home was really the first time I was introduced to playing the game. Rosie Currane recruited a few of us to play a tournament in November 2017 because her brother Mike had organized it. Obviously the Irish girls already playing Australian football over in Australia made me more aware of the AFLW.”
The inaugural season of the AFL England National University League came to a close last weekend with the Oxford University team taking the honours in the men’s grand final, whilst the University of Birmingham women’s team won their title.
The grand finals bring to an end a season of fun and enjoyment for the university teams of Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham and southern Wales, but more than that it was a showcase of talent within the universities. Players who are not already aligned with clubs for the upcoming season now have a pipeline in place with a successful first season at university level.
The success of the program has already prompted interest from other university-based teams across England and beyond and it will be interesting to see whether the competition expands further next season.
Both the Paris Cockerels and the ALFA Lions have strengthened their chances to play in the CNFA Leo Legrange finals series later this year, coming away from their trips to Toulouse with victories. It was a tough day for both Stade Toulousain teams with defeats that will certainly put pressure on their own finals chances.
In the opening match, the Paris Cockerels were too good for the Stade Toulousain 1 team, winning by 22 points. The victory certainly puts the Cockerels into flag favouritism and a chance to seek back to back titles. Despite a hiccup when they went down narrowly to the Bordeaux Bombers, the Cockerels have looked the goods again this season.
The ALFA Lions have been determined to put their rollercoaster journey behind them. After winning the 2016/17 flag and missing the finals altogether in 2017/18, the Lions have worked hard to get back into finals contention. Their victory against the Stade Toulousain A team by 24 points keeps them inside the top four and a good chance to hold their ground throughout the remainder of the season and play finals.