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Aussie Rules In Ireland: Not Just A Once-A-Year Competition

The game of Aussie Rules, for many Irish people, is seen as being no more than a once a year occurrence; a 2-legged test against Australia taking place in October or November, as both sides compete for bragging rights and for the Cormac McAnallen Cup. 

The truth is that Aussie Rules is a sport in which Ireland has already enjoyed a considerable amount of success and will continue to do so in the coming years. Beaten finalists in the 2014 AFL International Cup, 2002 and 2011 World Champions, the Irish Warriors (the Irish National Aussie Rules team) continue to battle it out as one of the best teams in the world.

The Irish team have enjoyed considerable success in spite of having one of the smallest domestic leagues of all the Aussie Rules teams, which is testament to the high quality of the league here. Founded in 2000, the Australian Rules Football League of Ireland currently consists of five teams, hailing from Cork, Galway, Belfast, Dublin and Leinster.

Last weekend saw the beginning of the 2015 season, with 2013 Champions the South Dublin Swans defeating last year’s runners-up the Galway Magpies by 44 to 19. The Swans will be hoping for an improved performance this year, after losing out to the Magpies last time out at the semi-final stage. A fine win over the Galway side will go some way to avenging last year’s loss.

The Magpies will themselves be hoping to build on last year’s loss to the Belfast Redbacks in the Grand Final, and with plenty of games yet to come, there’s plenty of time for them to do just that.

The Redbacks, last year’s champions, will be hoping to defend their title this year, but in a league full of skillful, physical teams, that won’t be an easy task. This Saturday, four-time champions the Leeside Lions will take on the North Leinster Giants in what will be a competitive affair between two sides well-known for the high quality of their encounters.

The Lions will be hoping to get their season off to the best possible start and with a number of players having featured for the National team in last year’s final loss to Papa New Guinea, they will be hoping to break the Redbacks’ and the Swans’ recent period of domination in the League.

The ARFLI has been a success since its foundation 15 years ago, with teams now cropping up in most Irish universities as well. Both the club and the university teams are competitive at European level, with last year’s ARFLI champions the Belfast Redbacks losing out in the semi-final to eventual winners the West London Wildcats, in the first ever AFL Europe European Club Championship.

Like the National team, Irish club teams have done very well in a short space of time, owing largely to the Gaelic football and rugby skills of Irish players, and are already competing with the top clubs in Europe. The high standard of competition allows Irish players to adapt their footballing skills to the pace of the Australian game, while also adjusting to the physicality and the pace of the game required to play Aussie Rules.

Take, for example, Pádraig Lucey, who only began playing Aussie Rules with the UCC Bombers two years ago, before being scouted playing for the Irish national team, which helped him earn a place with AFL side Geelong.

The ARFLI are obviously onto something, so with the season now underway, keep an eye out on one of Ireland’s fastest growing sports – there may be another Pádraig Lucey or Jim Stynes waiting to make the step up to the AFL yet.

 Eoghan Lordan, Pundit Arena 

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.