It was a fabulous day for the Irish Banshees as they secured their third successive International Cup Grand Final after a tense, hard fought victory over neighbours Great Britain.  Next up is a rematch of the last two Grand Finals against the strong Canadians with both nations having won one Grand Final each to date.  That game is being played on Saturday at 7:30am GMT in the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne with live streaming on the AFL International Cup youtube channel.  Read the match report below.

Match Report Round 4
Irish Banshees vs GB Swans
McAlister Oval, Royal Park
Tuesday, August 15, 3.45pm
BY RILEY BRETTELL & TIM MILLER

The Irish Banshees have secured their place in the AFL International Cup women’s division Grand Final today, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a nail-biting 8-point win over the Great Britain Swans at Royal Park in Melbourne. The Banshees overran their rivals late in the fourth quarter to set up a third consecutive meeting with the Canadian Northern Lights in the tournament’s final on Saturday, where the Irish will set foot onto Etihad Stadium and be out to reclaim the crown they lost when beaten at the final hurdle in 2014.

With Ireland coming into the match on the back of a clinical performance against Papua New Guinea, and the Swans a defeat to reigning champions Canada on Sunday, very few would have expected the sort of contest that unfolded, with the Swans taking it right up to their highly fancied opponents to lead for most of the match. Great Britain made the most of their early wind advantage to dominate possession in the early stages, stifling the trademark Irish run off half back with brutal tackling and kicked the first goal of the game ten minutes in, Danni Saulter only the second player to score a major against the Banshees all tournament to give her side a quarter time lead. The Swans’ ferocity at the contest, with Frankie Hocking and Charlotte Ellen-Eales outstanding, stood out in the tightly contested early stages, while a vocal crowd led by the GB Bulldogs men’s side offered constant support. Ireland were uncharacteristically sloppy going forward throughout the first half, struggling to negotiate the Swans loose players in defence.

The second term took much the same shape as the first, until finally Carol Breen broke the deadlock in the final minute with a classy goal on the run which came as great relief for the Irish contingent in the crowd. The Banshees’ slick ball movement and accurate target-hitting began to overwhelm the gallant Swans, and aided by a stiff breeze that saw all five goals of the match kicked to the southern end, it took a gallant defensive effort to keep the margin to a solitary point at the main break. The Brits began the third quarter on top once again and capitalised on their territorial dominance five minutes in when Rania Ramadan kicked truly, giving the Swans all the momentum heading into the final change. The black clouds that moved over the floodlit ground set a scene Spielberg would have been proud of and both sides certainly lived up to the setting with an epic final quarter.

As Ireland began to gain the ascendancy in general play, the British defence stood up tenfold, repelling attack after attack despite dozens of forward entries by the Banshees. Weight of numbers eventually told for the Irish, with Colleen Quinn kicking the go-ahead goal with just under ten minutes remaining, sparking wild celebrations from the Irish crowd behind the goals. Gillian Behan was then able to put the icing on the cake, gathering the ball and dashing across the half-forward line before slotting a magnificent goal from a tight angle, much to the relief to the Irish coaching staff.

Coach Tom Madigan post game said that there was extreme satisfaction amidst the relief of getting over their toughest challenge yet. “Fair play to the Great Britain side, they took it right up to us,” he said. “Their set up with two loose in our forward line took us a long time to adjust. We kept pumping it in there but they kept rebounding. “The girls deserved the win, the leaders really stepped up Marie Keating, Laura [Corrigan-Duryea] and Gil Behan were unbelievable. “They’ve done the hard bit to get there, now they just have to go and get one more.” Despite the loss, Swans coach Garth Nevin was full of pride after the match. “I’m totally proud of them, to have pushed them [Ireland] all the way,” he said. “Alex Saulter, playing that free man down back, she was amazing. Frankie Hocking gave it all to us in the ruck all game, and the on-ballers, coming in with a few niggles, really gave their all. “They were absolutely brilliant.”

The Swans will play the USA on Friday for third place in the tournament.

Irish Banshees 0.2 1.3 1.3 3.5 (23)

GOALS Irish Banshees – Gillian Behan, Carol Breen, Colleen Quinn
BEST Irish Banshees – M. Keating, G. Behan, C. Cassidy, F. Roarty, C. Quinn, M. Moriarty

GB Swans 1.2 1.2 2.3 2.3 (15)
GOALS – Rania Ramadan, Danni Saulter.
BEST – F. Hocking, R. Ramadan, C. Sellar, C. Ellen-Eales, L. Wilson, L. Smith.