An interesting article in the Irish Times notes the absence of the International Rules series this northern autumn and how it has left a hole in the GAA calendar. The AFL pulling out of this year's planned series, despite it being the GAA's 125th anniversary year, came as a shock in the emerald isle. In the article Sean Moran goes on to analyse the reasons and implications, including how as the game "softened" in attempts to rein in the perceived over physicality of the Aussies, maintaining AFL fans' interest became more difficult.
Nonetheless as WFN stories show, IR matches continue to tick over at women's, masters' and amateur club level around the globe. And the 2008 series seemed to come up with the best refinement of rules thus far for bringing out skillful, competitive play on both sides. Perhaps the hybrid is slowly fading or maybe it is simply lying dormant waiting for another northern autumn or southern spring for interest to bloom again?
Since the year 2000, an annual International Rules series has been contested between the Australian Wombats (AFL Masters representative squad) and a team from the GAA Masters competition. This year’s match will be held in a few weeks in Ireland. En route to Ireland, the Australian team, which includes former AFL players, will spend a night in Dubai and attend AFL International Masters Sportsman’s Night 2009, a fundraiser for AFL Middle East. The function will take place of 21 October 2009; tickets are still available but need to be pre-purchased. For further details contact cameron [at] aflmiddleeast [dot] com.
While the men’s tournament for 2009 has been put on the back burner, in Sydney the competition between the local GAA and Women's AFL will still go ahead, as two local teams with just as much fight look to take home the Irish Australian’s Memorial Cup.
The NSW GAA team took out the Inaugural game last year and have been training hard to play another dominating match this time around. The team is coached by Kieran Olwell from County Meath, who has picked a strong panel of the best Gaelic Football players in Sydney. Kieran hopes to emulate his Idol Sean Boylan, another Meath native, who coached the Irish team that travelled out last October and beat Australia at the MCG.
The Orang Eire (expat Irish in Malaysia) narrowly defeated the Malaysian Warriors to level the 3 match Finnegans Cup Series at one-all in an exciting International Rules match at Alice Smith gound in Kuala Lumpur on July 25th. This sets up a thrilling finale, to be played November 7th. The Warriors hold the Cup and it will all be on the line for the Gaelic boys.
The 2009 International Rules Series will be deferred for 12 months, the Australian Football League (AFL) and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) announced today. AFL Chief Executive Andrew Demetriou said he had spoken to GAA Director General Paraic Duffy on a number of occasions over the last week and the two organisations had agreed to defer the series to October 2010, with two Tests to be played then in Ireland.
Australia had been due to tour Ireland after both country's respective seasons conclude this September, but Mr Demetriou said the world economic situation had caused a major re-think for the AFL, prompting it to seek to defer the series for 12 months. Mr Demetriou said the decision to postpone the series for 12 months had been a difficult decision to make as the AFL valued the GAA relationship very strongly, and the AFL had given its commitment it would tour Ireland for two Test matches in October 2010.
The Cayman Islands has a vibrant Gaelic Football scene, and within their playing ranks are a number of Aussies who play the Irish game. On an annual basis the Irish play the Australians on both ANZAC Day and St Patrick's Day. In the past some of these matches have been Aussie Rules but compromise rules (or International Rules) has been the agreed format. One of the Aussie stars of the game there is Gavin McMaster. We thank Gavin for the following report.
For many Aussies living in the Cayman Islands, ANZAC Day was spent preparing for the much anticipated re-match of the International Rules series against the Irish. The Irish had earlier denied the Australian requests to play full Aussie Rules for fear of injury and were full of confidence given their recent St. Patrick’s Day victory and superior skills with the round ball. While some of the Australian team play in the local Gaelic football league, for many the St. Patrick’s Day game was their first exposure to International Rules. This was clearly evident on that day with errant kicking for goal costing the Australians dearly.
The first ever season of International Rules games in France is over. This year has seen five IR games being played on French soil.
The main event of the past few months was the inaugural Paris International Rules Cup (PIRC), where the Paris Cockerels (Australian football) competed against the Paris Gaels (GAA). The Cockerels lost 3 of the 4 matches to the Gaels, which proved to be too strong. But each of the games saw the Aussie Rules players gaining more confidence with the round ball and putting more pressure on the Gaels. This would ultimately lead to the Cockerels' first victory in the PIRC, beating the Gaels 6-2-12 (54) to 2-5-10 (43), under the IR scoring system of 6 points for a goal (under), 3 for an over and 1 for a behind.
But Paris is not the only place where IR is being played in France. The Bordeaux Bombers started their 2009 season with an IR game against the newly formed GAA team of Charente-Maritime. The more experienced Bombers outplayed their opponents and eventually won the game.
In a sign that the controversial hybrid game is decreasing the gap between Aussie Rules and Gaelic Football, West Dublin Saints FC (who compete in the ARFLI) have announced they will play St. James Aldergrove GAA club in International Rules Football.
The match is scheduled to take place on Saturday March 14th at the GAA club's home ground. After the Saints had hoped to play the hybrid game against Trinity College GAA in February, the match was called off due to bad weather. They still hope to play this match. Despite this, West Dublin are pleased to play the Belfast based team in March. West Dublin have consistently performed well in Ireland's Aussie Rules competition.
The first ever International Rules game to take place in France was held in Paris on Monday 24th of November. It saw two Parisian teams, the Gaels of Gaelic football and the Cockerels of Australian football, fighting hard for the win on a cold winter night.
It has been an exciting year for both teams, the Cockerels won the inaugural French Cup in June, and the Gaels finished the European Cup as runners up.
The match saw the Gaels run out comfortable winners, with a final scoreline of 84-17, but set in motion plans for a regular Paris International Rules series to be held in the coming winter.
‘Twas a grand day for the Warriors, but a sad one for the Irish as the Malaysian Warriors extracted some retribution for the Australian AFL failure in the recent International Rules series by comfortably defeating the Malaysia GAA Orang Eire in the first International Rules contest held in Malaysia at the Alice Smith School on November 22nd.
Playing for the Finnegan’s Cup, the trophy donated by the well known Irish hostelry in Kuala Lumpur, a generous sponsor of both teams, the Warriors triumphed 109-61 in what was a highly entertaining game, played in great spirit before an enthusiastic crowd.
It was interesting to note that both sides had little difficulty adapting to the rules, and specifically the Warriors managed to handle the spheroid ball particularly well. This is probably due to the fact that unlike Australian-based AFL players many of the competitors on both sides have played numerous codes, the Australian game, the Gaelic game, soccer and the various rugby codes and hence can easily adapt. The simple fact that the Warriors were able score 6 unders and 19 overs is testimony to their accuracy in dispatching the round ball.