With comments noting that Australia's increase in skill with the round ball needs to be matched more, perhaps than trying to match Australia's physical strength - Ireland’s International Rules squad was announced on Tuesday 7th October in Dublin.
As reported in the Irish Times, Irish team manager (coach), Seán Boylan, admitted Ireland was sending its most inexperienced (in terms of International Rules experience) squad since the series resumed a decade ago. Ireland will be without all its AFL players due to injury or personal reasons (or perhaps some not considered on form grounds – though Boylan didn’t say that) apart from the Brisbane Lions' Colm Begley who did have an excellent season. Tadgh Kennelly carrying several injuries will be a big loss but will be assisting Boylan with managing the team.
The Irish players came mainly from the most successful counties in the recently completed All-Ireland championships, as the Irish Times reports: “All-Ireland finalists Tyrone and Kerry leading the pack with four players each. Other representations are Armagh and Cork (3), Galway, Dublin and Meath (2) with Laois, Down, Wicklow, Westmeath, Wexford, Mayo and Derry having one player each.” Of some controversy was that a small traditionally unsuccessful county, Fermanagh, that has improved markedly in recent times had 3 players considered likely, but all were overlooked.
The AFL today announced its 25-man squad for the 2008 Toyota International Rules Series to be played in Perth and Melbourne. The squad to be coached by Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse will be defending the Cormac McAnallen trophy, which was won in Ireland in 2006. Malthouse said the team featured the next generation of Australian players.
“We have gone for youth, speed, skill and agility. The squad consists of players who have had outstanding seasons with their clubs, 23 of the 25 have finished in the top 10 of their club best and fairest. They all deserve the opportunity to play for their country and win for their country.
The first major International Rules event ever to be scheduled in Sydney will be played on Saturday 18 October, followed by the first major Gaelic Football event on Sunday November 2.
The matches will be played at Henson Park, a stadium located in Marrickville, a suburb of inner-western Sydney. Henson Park is the home of the Newtown Jets rugby league club and Canterbury-Marrickville Olympic soccer club. It is also a finals venue for the Sydney AFL has grandstand and seating capacity of 1,000 with a total capacity of about 30,000.
The Australian squad of 20 was selected from some of the best amateur players in the nation and Victoria, SA, WA and Tasmania are all represented (these are the states that are members of the amateur council).
The Australian team leaves for Ireland on Monday 29th of September and returns on Wednesday 15th of October.
The following is an edited extract of the release from the Victorian Premier's office today.
Premier John Brumby today announced Australia would play Ireland at the MCG on Friday 31 October with Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse to coach the Australian team. “The match will be a celebration of the close relationship between Ireland and Australia and the great sporting rivalry between the two countries,” Mr Brumby said.
“Melbourne is the undisputed major events capital of the world with a year round calendar of sporting and cultural events. This weekend will further boost this reputation. “We expect a huge number of visitors from Ireland, England and from across Australia to converge on Melbourne for what promises to be a fantastic long weekend of major sporting events.
“I expect there will be a great buzz around Melbourne which will provide significant economic benefits to Victoria and be a great boost for our hotels, restaurants, taxis, bars and shops.”
The International Rules series that was scrapped at the end of 2006 is set to return in October. The Irish site RTE Sport reports that the AFL and GAA have confirmed the return of the series with games in Melbourne and Perth in October. A long and drawn out process by the GAA to decide whether they wanted to resume the series left the AFL with little time to organise venues in October. Due to stadia around the country being utilised by cricket and the upcoming rugby league World Cup, the series almost fell over as the GAA put an ultimatum to the AFL to have venues arranged. The GAA’s willingness for the series to continue was evident by an extension of their original deadline for the AFL to confirm venues. Even now it is not known what the venues in the two cities will be.
As the GAA and the AFL debate beginning the International Rules series again, may I suggest a Third Way – a tri-nation series between Ireland, Australian and the USA played in the United States. By bringing USFooty, the North American GAA and the New York GAA into the series it would help to promote the game and the two codes – Australian football and Gaelic football in one of the largest economies in the world. It would also be likely to decrease the “tensions” associated with the previous series by putting the games in neutral territory, by being “a showcase” event for a new audience and by bringing in a third team that has not been involved in the earlier tiffs.
A vote of the Gaelic Athletic Association‘s Central Council saw the Irish counties vote 24 to 8 for a resumption of the International Rules Series. A key factor appears to have been the Dubai document that showed a pretty thorough attempt by both sides to clarify the rules and eliminate foul play whilst still preserving the physical nature of the hybrid code. The AFL have yet to publicly respond at time of writing, but previous reports by AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou would suggest that the AFL will agree.
In the past month former Irish captain and current GAA media commentator, Colm O‘Rourke penned an eloquent piece in favour of the concept and Tadhg Kennelly spoke out passionately for the return of the series and also emphasised the point that AFL clubs would engage in open slather recruiting if there were no formal agreement between the 2 codes. This latter point probably carried significant weight within the GAA.
The Tests could resume as early as this October though that may not be logistically possible. Gerard Healy, Australian selector and passionate supporter of the hybrid games has suggested calling the games “Friendlies” rather than “Tests”. There may be some merit in that, not just to emphasise yet again that blood need not be spilt, but in being truer to the place the series has as a hybrid and exhibition style contest that is entertaining and gives fans and players of both Gaelic Football and Australian Football the chance to experience an international dimension otherwise lacking at the elite level in each code.
There are also suggestions of playing 2 out of every 3 years - ie home and away and rest year.
There’s been a fair bit in the Irish and Australian media over the past week about the possible resumption of the International Rules Series. The basis for such a resumption rests on a significant beefing up of disciplinary rules and some rather minor tweaks to playing rules, as evident in a document presented on the Melbourne Herald Sun website. The document arose out of GAA and AFL dialogue culminating in the recent meeting in Dubai before the Adelaide v Collingwood NAB Cup match.
A closely related factor making news is the increased “poaching” of Ireland’s best young Gaelic footballers by AFL clubs. The point is being made by GAA officials, including CEO Nicky Brennan who in the past has been somewhat negative towards the hybrid code, that working with the AFL will reduce rather than increase the loss of the GAA’s talent to Australia. As Fox Sports reports in Irish plunder plan rejected the AFL has recognised this and spoken against an all-out recruiting service for AFL clubs based in Ireland. On the other hand the creation of the two new AFL teams in Queensland and New South Wales has Setanta Sports reporting comments of AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou’s mentioning recruitment from Ireland as one possible source for players for the two new AFL teams.