Round 1 – Irish Banshees vs USA Ransford Oval, Royal Park – August 6th, 2:00pm

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Images by Lily Beck

The Alfa Irish Banshees have kicked off their AFL International Cup campaign with a commanding victory over the USA, prevailing by 38 points on a blustery day at Royal Park in Melbourne.

With the conditions at the inner northern parklands venue looking considerably more Dublin than Florida pre-game on a huge day of football at the venue, the Banshee’s were looking to start the tournament on the right note after finishing second in 2014 and duly saluted in what was one of the most anticipated matchups for the day.

The inclement weather cleared in time for the first bounce and it didn’t take long for the pumped-up Banshee’s to kick into gear, with Christine McCutcheon dancing on a dollar to find space and kick a magnificent crumbing goal to open proceedings two minutes in.

The Banshees utilised the favourable breeze to great effect early on, with spearhead Linda Connolly commanding plenty of attention from the American defenders after she put two goals of her own on the board in the space of five minutes, ensuring that the Irish had the perfect start to their tournament.

The USA steadily worked their way into the match as the first term wore on but their attacking forays were consistently quelled by the Irish defence, with Sandra Ryan proving unbeatable across half back and launching attacks of her own with a lethal left boot to keep her side comfortably on top early.

The Banshees defence continued to stand up into the wind after the first break, with skipper Laura Corrigan-Duryea showing her class at full back to hold the Americans out on multiple occasions. Weight of forward entries eventually told on the Irish defence as the Americans managed to open their tournament account when the wind carried the ball over a pack of players, and led to a scrambled goal that cut the Irish lead to 12 points at the main break.

Linda Connolly bagged her third goal early in the third and it looked as though the Banshees were set to run away with the game, but the Americans fought gamely to keep the margin in check throughout most of the third term. The uncompromising style of Carol Breen, Carolann Cassidy and Aisling Gillespie typified the Irish intensity that allowed Gillian Behan to add her name to the scoreboard midway through the quarter, while Christine McCutcheon scrambled her second through in the dying seconds to give Ireland a crucial 32-point lead heading into the final chance.

The Irish defence once again stood up in the fourth term, repelling an American side with the wind in their sails time and time again until Molly Cullen was able to put the final nail in the USA coffin half way through the quarter, winning a free kick and nailing her opportunity into the wind to put her side 38-points up and the result beyond all doubt.

Banshee’s coach Tom Madigan was full of praise for his side after the game, in particular the midfield group, saying “they backed everyone up and helped the backline out all day. Everyone went through there and did exactly what we wanted”

“Linda (Connolly) early on took some really good grabs and kicked some really important goals to set us off to a good start and the girls fought well until the end” he said.

Connolly finished her first International Cup game with three goals and was thrilled with the sides win. “It’s pretty exciting to be out there on the world stage and playing against high quality teams” she said.

“All the girls fought hard today and it’s good to start with a win. This group of players have never played together before so it’s just about getting to know how each other plays and starting to link up well together over the next few games.”

The Banshee’s make the trip to Ballarat for their second-round matchup against the European Crusaders on Wednesday, a game that will provide a big test for the side according to Madigan.

“You never know what’s coming with this tournament so you’ve got to play on game at a time and put your best foot forward. We’ll just go for it.”

Alfa Irish Banshees: 7.4. (46) USA: 1.2. (8)

Irish Banshees – L. Connolly 3, C. McCutcheon 2, M. Cullen 1, G. Behan 1 USA – TBC

Irish Banshees – C. Behan, C. Fitzpatrick, L. Connolly, C. Quinn, M. Moriarty, G. Behan USA – TBC