Narrow losses for Irish in Euro finals

It was disappointment for both the Banshees and Warriors on Grand Final day at the AFL Europe 18-a-side European Championships.  In the women’s final the Banshees lost out to Great Britain Swans 1.2. 8 to 0.2. 2.  This was followed by the men’s Grand Final where the Warriors lost their title to Great Britain Bulldogs on a score of 7.9. 51 to 4.5. 29.  Five first half goals to the Bulldogs was the difference on the day as the Warriors struggled to pull back that early lead.

Reports from AFL Europe

Women’s Final – GB Swans vs Irish Banshees

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The much anticipated women’s final followed the third place playoff with only a draw and a 1-point victory to the Swans separating the two squads throughout their round matches.

The wind had picked up and was going to make a big difference in this game and whichever side was going to adapt quicker would come away with the much coveted title of ‘Champions of Europe’.

As expected it was an absolute dogfight to start the game. Stoppage after stoppage was created by both sides fierce attack on the football and their committed defensive pressure.

The crowd were in for a treat as the ruck dual between Clara Fitzpatrick of Ireland and Lea Cobham of GB was incredible to watch.

Onora Mulcahy was paid the utmost respect from the GB coaching panel as they opted to tag the ball magnet by employing her AFL London teammate, Rose Lewis, to do the job.

Despite it being a goalless first quarter the crowd were heavily invested in the game as the ferocity shown by both sides had passers by stopping in to see what all the fuss was about.

50-meter penalties seemed to be the flavour of the day as a GB centre-half forward, Rania Ramadan, was marched into the goal square to convert what turned out to be the match-winning and only goal of the game.

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From here the game evolved into a scrap with nearly all 36 players on field descending on the Irish forward 50 to make sure nothing went through the Banshees goal.

The last quarter flew by as the Irish did everything they could to get within range to put through that much needed major. Full credit to the Swans defence who stood up when needed to repel anything and everything that came their way.

When the final siren sounded the home crowd erupted with jubilation and stormed the field to celebrate with the new champions of Europe, the GB Swans. The girls were out on their feet and should be proud of how they represented not only their countries but also the amazing development of women’s football in Europe.

The final scorecard reading 1.2. 8 to 0.2. 2.

Goals:

GB Swans: R. Ramadan

Irish Banshees:

Best:

GB Swans: L. Cobham, A. Saulter, D. Saulter, F. Blount, L. Smith, R. Ramadan

Irish Banshees: C. Fitzpatrick, O. Mulcahy, A. Payne, M. Walsh, M. Beaven, L. Connolly

 

Men’s Final – Irish Warriors vs GB Bulldogs

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The main event had finally arrived. The all-conquering Irish Warriors were against up-and-comers the GB Bulldogs in what was set to be one for the ages following their 1-point thriller only days beforehand.

Last time they had meet in the European Championships Final was in 2013 when a last second Irish snap gave the Warriors victory.

The Irish had been the form side all tournament, showing why they have been European and International Champions on numerous occasions.

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The Bulldogs, in front of a home crowd, had other ideas and jumped out of the blocks early to register 5 first quarter goals to the Warriors 1 running with the wind. Andy Walkden contributed 2 of those majors and was looking dangerous whenever he went near the footy.

The GB side had come out with a plan and executed it to perfection in the opening exchanges. The big test for them was going to come in the second term when the Irish had the wind at their backs.

The second term didn’t go as expected for the Irish who were bombing away long whenever they got the football in their hands. This was exactly what the Bulldogs wanted as their spare man racked up a ton of the footy.

The Irish looked rattled and didn’t have an answer for what the Bulldogs were throwing at them. Their usual run and carry was non-existent and cracks were starting to show.

One of the best players all tournament, Kevin O’Brien from Ireland, was being tagged out of the game by GB’s, James Talbot. The little general from AFL London was quick to tell this reporter of his unsung efforts as a lock-down midfielder throughout the week at the tournament after-party on Saturday.

Likewise, the tournament’s equal leading goal scorer, Padraic O’Connell, was being well held by the dependable, Matty Goodman, whose added counterattack was immense for the home side.

The unthinkable had happened and the Irish had been kept goalless running with the breeze. The Bulldogs had their tails up going into halftime and with one hand on the trophy they weren’t going to let this slip.

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A spirited halftime speech from the Irish coach had the boys in green raring to go after the main break. Two quick goals to Colin O’Lordian and Muiris Bartley gave the Warriors a sniff but to GB’s credit they absorbed the pressure and took control of the game.

A late goal to Andy Walkden calmed the nerves of the boisterous home crowd and gave the Bulldogs a 3 goal advantage going into the final term.

The Irish knew they could close the gap and with the wind coming over their shoulders the Bulldogs knew it was still anyone’s game.

The Warriors had the better of the final term but poor foot skills really hurt them going forward and they were unable to convert their chances. Time was getting away from them and when Walkden converted his fourth goal of the day it was all but over for the reigning champions.

A late goal to Kevin McDonnell left it too little, too late for the Irish and when the final siren sounded a new champion of Europe was crowned.

Andy Walkden was huge for the Bulldogs and became only the second player in the tournament to register a unanimous best on ground performance. A huge effort in a grand final by the GB half forward.

The final score read 7.9. 51 to 4.5. 29.

Both sides proved they be tough opponents when they play in next year’s International Cup in Melbourne and will do their Countries and AFL in Europe proud.

All sides should be proud of how they represented their countries and we can’t wait to see how everyone develops in the future.

A huge shout out to the umpiring squad for officiating an amazing week of football and to all volunteers who gave up their time to help in any way possible.

Hopefully we’ll see a few familiar faces at the upcoming Euro Cup in Lisbon.

Goals:

GB: A. Walkden 4, M. Cashman, D. Hastie, C. Britton

Ireland: M. Bartley, G. Murray, C. O’Lordian, K. Mccdonnell

Best:

GB: A. Walkden, L. Booth, J. Coughlan, M. Hudson, C. Britton, M. Goodman

Ireland: G. Walls, C. Fitzgerald, C. O’Halloran, D. Joyce, D. McElhone, K. O’Brien

MEN

Player of the Tournament Votes Team
Andreas Svensson 27 Swedish Elks
Kevin O’Brien 26 Irish Warriors
Muiris Bartley 24 Irish Warriors
Gavin Murray 24 Irish Warriors
Jakob Jung 22 German Eagles
Hampus Olsson 21 Swedish Elks
Andrew Walkden 16 GB Bulldogs
Tristan Thormann 14 German Eagles
Buster Sund 14 Swedish Elks
Ruben Streicher 14 German Eagles

 

 

Leading Goal Kicker Goals Team
Paudric O’Connell 9 Irish Warriors
Marc Cashman 9 GB Bulldogs
David Hastie 7 GB Bulldogs
Andrew Walkden 7 GB Bulldogs
Jan Huesken 6 German Eagles
Dominic Joyce 5 Irish Warriors
Jack Coughlan 5 GB Bulldogs
Muiris Bartley 5 Irish Warriors
Gavin Murray 5 Irish Warriors
Eoin O’Murchu 4 Irish Warriors

The Top 10s

WOMEN

Player of the Tournament Votes Team
Clara Fitzpatrick 41 Irish Banshees
Rania Ramadan 28 GB Swans
Claire Messent 25 Crusaders
Onora Mulcahy 25 Irish Banshees
Danni Saulter 25 GB Swans
Alex Saulter 24 GB Swans
Aisling Gillespie 23 Irish Banshees
Rebecca Dickson 21 Crusaders
Marley Beaven 19 Irish Banshees
Chloe Hall 16 GB Swans

 

Leading Goal Kicker Goals Team
Aisling Gillespie 6 Irish Banshees
Caroline Sellar 3 GB Swans
Danni Saulter 3 GB Swans
Rania Ramadan 3 GB Swans
Ashleigh Payne 2 Irish Banshees
Lea Cobham 2 GB Swans
Chloe Hall 2 GB Swans
Naomi Curtis 2 Irish Banshees
Ciara Moane 1 Irish Banshees
Louise Darby 1 GB Swans

Banshees and Warriors make Grand Finals

Both the Irish Banshees and Warriors have made the European Championships Grand Finals to be played in London this afternoon.  In both games the opposition will be Great Britain.  The Banshees had a group game record of two victories over the European Crusaders, a draw with Great Britain and a one point loss to the same opposition. The Warriors come into the final with victories over Germany, Great Britain and Sweden.

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The Irish Banshees in London

Both finals are expected to be close affairs.  There appears to be nothing between the women of Ireland and Great Britain looking at the group game results.  This should lead to an exciting final in what is the first full-sided women’s international competition to be played in Europe.

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The Irish Warriors in London

In the men’s competition it is a repeat of the 2013 final where Ireland won by a point after a near last kick goal.  In the group round meeting of these great sporting rivals last Tuesday again the Warriors had a one point victory.  In that game the Warriors looked comfortable going into the final quarter but a four goals five behind quarter by the Bulldogs pulled it back to a one point game at the final hooter.

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Ireland v GB on Tuesday

Follow the games live by looking for AFL Europe social media

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Twitter at AFL_Europe

 

 

Ireland ready for Euros

Starting on Sunday, Irish Warriors commence their challenge of retaining the 18 a-side European Championships in Motspur Park Oval, Wimbledon, London.  The women’s team, the Irish Banshees are also there and commence their competition on Thursday with both Grand Finals on Saturday 21st August.

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The 2013 Euro winning Warriors

This year there are four men’s teams and three women’s teams competing.  It is the first women’s full sided tournament and shows the progress the women’s game has made in Europe in recent years.  The men’s competition has shrunk in nations compared to the 2013 edition hosted by ARFLI in Dublin.  Then there were six men’s teams but absent this year are Denmark and Croatia.  Also a team that competed in the 2014 International Cup, France are not made the short trip to London.  Denmark are the most notable absence having impressed in recent 9 a-side Euro Cups however it is disappointing they are not attending considering their strong footy tradition in real aussie rules on a full sized oval and 18 a-side.

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The IC14 squad, only 8 of them will play at EC16

However based on rankings from the 2013 tournament and International Cup performances the two strongest teams in Europe at competing, Ireland and Great Britain.  The Warriors field only eight of the squad that were such narrow runners up to Papua New Guinea at the 2014 International Cup in Melbourne and come with a mixture of home based and English based players.  Some notable players include Lions duo Muiris Bartley and Conor O’Halloran who both won their first ARFLI title last week and also competed in IC14 and EC13.  Another Lion, Luke Hickey has youthful dash and could have a big tournament.

Of the English based players, Tom Stack played in the European Champions League Grand Final in Amsterdam last March with Manchester Mosquitos and should make an impact.  Another very notable English based player is Kevin O’Brien who was on the team of the tournament at IC11.  Slightly confusing is the fact that their are actually two Kevin O’Briens in the Irish squad and both play for London club Wandsworth Demons.

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Kevin O’Brien evades PNG at IC11 Grand Final in the MCG

Player of the tournament in The Euro Champs in 2013, former Galway Magpie John O’Regan is absent as he has emigrated and will be missed for his all round footy ability.  Probably the Warriors biggest obstacle in winning their third European Championships is Great Britain.  In 2013 only one point separated the sides with a last gasp goal from Mark Leavy the difference.  At the 2014 International Cup Great Britain had high expectations but probably under performed.  In particular at that tournament they struggled against the free flowing style of the Pacific island teams, with Nauru the team the halted their progress.  With many Warriors have Gaelic games backgrounds it is hoped they can replicate this free flowing game that seems to unhinge team GB.

However only three of the International Cup 2014 GB Bulldogs squad remain, they are Will Worthington, James Talbot & Owain Ryland.  Many of the GB players named will be making their GB Bulldogs debuts after impressing club competitions with others returning to the Bulldogs guernsey after a competing in either IC11 or EC13 Bulldogs campaign.

Irish Warriors’ Squad

Defenders

Muiris Bartley(UCC & Leeside Lions)

Sean Paul Henry(Belfast Redbacks)

Luke Hickey(UCC & Leeside Lions)

Brendan Kelly(Belfast Redbacks)

Stiofán Mac Finn(Wimbledon Hawks)

Tom McKenna(Belfast Redbacks)

Paul Murphy(UCC & Leeside Lions)

Conor O’ Halloran(Leeside Lions)

Eoin Ó Súilleabháin(Leeside Lions)

Tom Stack(Manchester Mosquitoes)

Gerard Walls(Belfast Redbacks)

 

Midfielders

Liam Burns(South Dublin Swans)

Conor Fitzgerald(Wandsworth Demons)

David McElhone(Belfast Redbacks)

Sean McGlinchey(Belfast Redbacks)

Stuart McKeating(Belfast Redbacks)

David Miller(Belfast Redbacks)

Gavin Murray(South Dublin Swans)

Kevin Young Kev O’ Brien(Wandsworth Demons)

Eoin Ó Murchú(Wandsworth Demons)

 

Forwards

Conor Fitzgerald(North London Lions)

Dominic Joyce(Leeside Lions)

Ryan McCloskey(Belfast Redbacks)

Kevin McDonnell(Galway Magpies)

David McGinty(Galway Magpies)

Kevin McSorley(Belfast Redbacks)

Kevin Old Kev O’ Brien(Wandsworth Demons)

Padraic O’ Connell(Leeside Lions)

Cóilín Ó Lordáin(Leeside Lions)

 

Standby/Emergencies

Rory O’ Donnell(UCC & Leeside Lions)

Alan Tobin(Wandsworth Demons)

 

SCHEDULE

DAY ONE – SUNDAY 14TH AUGUST

1pm Irish Warriors v German Eagles

3pm Great Britain Bulldogs v Swedish Elks

 

DAY TWO – TUESDAY 16TH AUGUST

4pm German Eagles v Swedish Elks

6pm Great Britain Bulldogs v Irish Warriors

 

DAY THREE – THURSDAY 18TH AUGUST

1.30pm Great Britain Swans v Irish Banshees

2.15pm Irish Banshees v European Crusaders

3pm European Crusaders v Great Britain Swans

4pm Irish Warriors v Swedish Elks

6pm Great Britain Bulldogs v German Eagles

 

DAY FOUR – FRIDAY 19TH AUGUST

11.30am Irish Banshees v European Crusaders

12.15pm Great Britain Swans v Irish Banshees

1pm European Crusaders v Great Britain Swans

 

DAY FIVE – SATURDAY 20TH AUGUST

1pm Men’s Third Place PO

2.30pm Women’s Grand Final

3.30pm Men’s Grand Final

(The following team previews are based on those that appear on the AFL Europe website that were then reported on World Footy News www.worldfootynews.com)

Ireland Warriors

The team itself is coming together well, blending a mix of youth and experience. With multiple International medal winners like David McElhone and Eoin O’Suilebhain mixing with some really exciting prospects like Stuart McKeating, Paul Murphy and Luke Hickey this Warriors side looks pretty formidable.

The ruck duo of Gavin Murray and Dominic Joyce (Dominic back in Ireland after multiple seasons playing in rural NSW) will be ones to look out for and can be really dominate. They could dictate first use for their midfielders which is key to winning big games.

The improvement shown by players like Sean Paul Henry is going to be vital for the Warriors. His natural athleticism has always had him at the forefront of opposition discussions but not his foot skills have become a focal point of his game which makes him a really exciting prospect for the Irish side.

Great Britain Bulldogs

With a very young looking Bulldog’s squad, many of who are making their international debut, it’ll be very hard to pick who would potentially provide the difference in this tournament. The University of Birmingham keep producing high quality players and their link up with the North London Lions continues to be fruitful. Ross Denton, Jack Coughlan, Jonny Harvey, Andy Walkden, Chris Britton, George Dibble and Michael Sharp have all come through the pipeline and will be worth a watch at EC16.

The London league is seeing impressive performances from the Wimbledon newbies in Myles Hudson, David Hastie, Marc Cashman and Jason Hill, while Alex Watson and David Jordan at the Wandsworth Demons are putting in highly rated performances along with West London Wildcats defender, Lewis Brackstone.

The AFL CNE league continues to churn out new and young talent in Craig Degville, Andrew Cochran and Harry Duffield. More experienced players such as Owain Ryland, Andy Smith, Will Worthington and Luke Booth will be keys to bringing success, through their big tournament experience and years of service to the Bulldogs. All in all, X-Factor performances have the ability to come from the whole GB squad and we’re as excited as anyone to see who’ll shine at the AFL Europe Champs.

Sweden Elks

You can never go past veteran Andy Svensson. The oldest player in the team seems to get younger when he plays footy. Having played since the early 2000s he is a valued member of the team. Andy was a member of the Denmark side that defeated Great Britain back in 1996 when the Helsingborg Saints were members of the Denmark AFL. New Elks, Alex Olsson and Calle Wrang have proved in domestic footy that they can produce, whilst stalwarts Chris Martensson and Hampus Olsson will lead the team with bravado.

One of the most improved players is Buster Sund from Norrtalje. He was just 17 years old at International Cup in 2014 and gained valuably from that experience to become one of the most dominant players in the Stockholm league in the past two years.

German Black Eagles

The Germans are strong across the park and are blessed with the ability to play their players in any position. A few names to keep an eye out for are big bodied midfielder/defender, Florian Naumann, who can take a strong mark overhead and hits very hard. Ruben Streicher is a raw talent who plays as a tall forward or ruckman. He was named in the Euro Cup team of the tournament last year in Croatia and is only going to improve. Jakob Jung is one to watch for the opposition. He has all the attribute of a top-quality midfielder with his speed and skills, he’s also tough as nails so will be hard to stop in the Champs.

Players who have shown significant improvement for the Eagles are Jan Husken and Simon Assmus. Both will be hoping to continue their rapid develop and shake up competition.

 

History in the Making: Women’s European Championships in Australian Football

Some of the Banshees at a recent training session
Some of the Banshees at a recent training session

Irish Banshees’ squad

Claire Donnelly  Ulster Kookaburra’s

Terri Kelly            Dublin Angels

Ciara Mone         Ulster Kookaburra’s

Catherine Collins              Dublin Angels

Emma Kelly         Ulster Kookaburra’s

Fiona Roarty       Ulster Kookaburra’s

Carolann Cassidy              Ulster Kookaburra’s

Olivia McCann   Ulster Kookaburra’s

Onóra Mulcahy Wandsworth Demons

Naomi Curtis      Dublin Angels

Mairead Walsh  Ulster Kookaburra’s

Marley Bevan    Dublin Angels

Ursula Murphy  Irish Exiles AFL

Linda Connolly   Wandsworth Demons

Leona Russell     Ulster Kookaburra’s

Claire Doherty   Ulster Kookaburra’s

Clara Fitzpatrick                Ulster Kookaburra’s

Aisling Gillespie Ulster Kookaburra’s

Edel Gray             Ulster Kookaburra’s

Crea McAleer    Ulster Kookaburra’s

Tracey Moloney               Irish Exiles AFL

Amy O’Donnell  Ulster Kookaburra’s

Nuala O’Hagan  Ulster Kookaburra’s

Colleen Quinn   Ulster Kookaburra’s

Oonagh McAnespey       Ulster Kookaburra’s

Niamh Mc Fadden           Ulster Kookaburra’s

Colleen Mallon  Irish Exiles AFL

Ashleigh Payne                 Dublin Angels

 
The Banshees at IC14
The Banshees at IC14

The below discussion is from World Footy News, more detail on Banshees later in week.

Women have competed at the Euro Cup 9’s since 2010, but the 2016 edition of the European Championships showcases the continuing growth of Women’s Footy across Europe with Great Britain and European Crusaders* joining Ireland in full-field 18-a-side competition.

The Irish Banshees are currently ranked 4th of only four fully Ranked Nations (Played more than 8 International Matches) with 46.81 Rating Points. As Great Britain Swans and the Crusaders debut at this level they begin their international journey with 40.00 Rating Points. It is difficult to predict how the two new teams will measure up against each other and the seasoned campaigners, Ireland, winner of International Cup 2011 and Runners-Up to Canada Northern Lights at IC14.

So if we assume the Higher ranked nation will win more often than not then we could expect to see the Banshees to gain enough rating points (over 2 rounds and final of this tournament) to enable them to climb above United States Freedom into third place behind Australia and Canada.

Great Britain and the European Crusaders will slot in amongst the other provisionally ranked nations possibly at P1 and P4 depending on which team is more successful. Congratulations must be extended to both debutante teams as they join the International Australian Football family of nations

*European Crusaders: Team made up from players from other nations unable to field full 18-a-side teams. This team has players from France, Great Britain and Scandinavia.

Lions’ Roar Again

The 2016 ARFLI Grand Final played last Saturday was a famous occasion for the Leeside Lions as they secured their first Premiership in nine years defeating the Belfast Redbacks who have now lost back to back Grand Finals. The victory also means the Lions join South Dublin Swans at the top of the roll of honour with five Premierships in the history of ARFLI and also they gain the right to represent Ireland at the 2017 AFL Europe Champions League.

The scenic Mardyke on the banks of the river Lee
The scenic Mardyke Arena on the banks of the river Lee

 

Leeside Lions
Leeside Lions

 

Belfast Redbacks
Belfast Redbacks

 

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Captains Padraic O’Connell and Gareth Baird with umpires John Enright and Bryce Fraser

Grand Final day was a cloudy, slightly damp day with a moderate cross field wind blowing. The ground was in perfect condition at the impressive Mardyke Arena in Cork city. One notable abseetee on the day was Lions’ regular ruckman Dominic Joyce who was getting married the same day. Reliable defender Sean Paul Henry was also absent for the Redbacks. The 3pm start was delayed by 20 minutes to allow the Redbacks sufficient warm up time as their bus was late to arrive at the ground.

The first quarter saw the Redbacks attack the river Lee end of the very scenic oval, but it was the Lions that had the better of opening exchanges. First a high tackle on Lions gun forward Matty Moore led to a goal from the subsequent free kick. Then Kerryman Vince Manning got another one for the Lions from a mark 40 metres out. The impressive Matty Moore marked 40 metres out and with deadly accuracy put the Lions three goals to the good. Late on in the first quarter the Redbacks managed a recovery. First Ryan McCloskey marked on the edge of the goal squared and goaled. Then Johnny Duffin got a 25 metre penalty for a late contact and goaled from 25 metres out. At the hooter to end the first quarter the Redbacks had pulled the Lions back to three points.

End Quarter 1 Lions 3.1 19 Redbacks 2.4 16

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Perhaps the delayed arrival had flustered the Redbacks in the first quarter but they opened the second quarter with all guns blazing and took the lead for the first time when ruckman Gerard Walls scored a goal on the run from 50 metres out. Lions’ Australian forward Matty Moore then went on a scoring spree first kicking a goal from 30 metres after getting a free kick. Next after marking 40 metres out he got another goal and then another from open play.

The Lions rounded off the quarter with another goal, this time from talented small forward and Lions’ captain Padraic O’Connell. So even though the Lions had the same number of scores as the Redbacks at half-time they kicked seven goals to the Redbacks’ three, meaning they had pushed their lead out to 22 points. The player of the first half was undoubtly Matty Moore who kicked five goals by this stage.

End Quarter 2 Lions 7.4 46 to Redbacks 3.8 24

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Matty Moore who had an impressive game

 

The resumption of play for the third quarter was a time when the Redbacks needed to get some early scores to avoid the final slipping away. The quarter started well with a free kick for a push on Redbacks’ Paul Brogan, resulting in a goal from 20 metres out. However shortly after that the Redbacks imploded. Gerard Walls was sin binned for 10 minutes for dissent and at the same time Shaun McElhone received a red card for contact with an umpire. Even though the Redbacks were now down a player for the rest of the game they managed the next goal. Then Lions’ Padriac O’Connell and Redbacks’ John McNabb exchanged behinds before Lions’ veteran forward Vince Manning got his second goal of the game. Lions’ on-baller Conor O’Halloran then scored a fine goal with a snap kick from a tight angle on the left side to put 19 points between the teams.

Redbacks go to forward John McNabb, then reduced the margin to 13 points with a big goal from 40 metres after being awarded a free kick. But again star Lions’ forward Matty Moore steadied the Lions’ ship with an impressive mark and goal from 25 metres out. Lions’ experienced defender Muiris Bartley then got up the oval and won a free kick 20 metres out that he scored a goal from. The quarter was finished off with former Irish Warrior Vince Manning’s third goal of the game. At the hooter the Lions had extended their lead to 31 points. Again it was the superior accuracy of the Lions’ forwards that was the telling factor in the three-quarter time lead. Up to this point the Lions had goaled 12 of 17 scores compared to Redbacks only goaling 6 of 16 scores.

End Quarter 3 Lions 12.5 77 to Redbacks 6.10 46

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Michael Scanlon attempts to evade a tackle

The final quarter saw they Lions exert their dominance on the game scoring the first three goals of the quarter. First Dan O’Connell scored after being awarded a free kick. Vince Manning then got his fourth goal of the game soon followed by a goal from Michael Scanlon. Redbacks managed to pull a goal back but the game was long gone from their grasp at this stage. It was only apt that the final goal went to the best on ground at the 2016 Grand Final Matty Moore, who scored his seventh goal of the game from 10 metres out.

Final Score Lions 16.8 104 Redbacks 7.10 52

Best on Ground, Matty Moore celebrates the win
Best on Ground, Matty Moore celebrates the win

 

Matty Moore getting his award
Matty Moore originally from Adelaide getting his award

So it was the Lions who emerged victorious for the first time in nine years with only a few of the old timers having ever experienced the thrill of winning a flag before. The Lions victory was built on a solid defence only conceding 7 goals over the 80 minutes. Their ruckmen and midfielders worked well although Redbacks won more hit outs. It was the Lions forwards that really shone on the day with Matty Moore’s seven goals and Vince Manning’s four proving important in getting the Lions over the line in front.  Moore last won a flag with Darwin University Rats having previously played for Kilburn in Adelaide.  Undoubtedly the Redbacks will be disappointed, but a combination of less accurate goal kicking and poor discipline cost them dearly on the day.

Manager Chris O'Brien and captain Padraic O'Connell receive the John Lack O'Sullivan Cup
Manager Chris O’Brien and captain Padraic O’Connell receive the John Lack O’Sullivan Cup

 

The winners with their medals
The winners with their medals

The Grand Final concludes the ARFLI club season with the very successful carnival format proving popular with all the clubs for both men and women. Next up starting this weekend is the AFL Europe European Championships in London with both the Irish Warriors and Irish Banshees in action in the week long tournament.

ARFLI Grand Final Preview

The final of the 2016 Australian Rules Football League of Ireland (ARFLI) sees the Leeside Lions take on last year’s beaten finalists the Belfast Redbacks at the Mardyke Arena GAA field in Cork City at 3pm this coming Saturday August 6th.

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The Mardyke on the banks of the river Lee

This promises to be an exciting game between the Lions who have not reached the final since 2011 and the Redbacks who lost out to the South Dublin Swans when hosting last year’s final in Belfast.  This season it has been the Lions that have been the form team after several years in the doldrums where a Grand Final appearance alluded them.  They started the season with a bang in the opening game defeating the reigning  champions the Swans on their home turf in Bushy Park and they continued the season undefeated with nine wins from nine.  At times they looked unstoppable but the Redbacks gave them their best challenge at the Belfast carnival with the Lions only winning that game by a single point.

In contrast the Redbacks have had a less successful season to date with only three wins during the carnival rounds.  However they managed to raise their game for the semi-finals playoffs defeating both the South Dublin Swans and Galway Magpies to secure their Grand Final spot.

Lions 2016 Galway carnival
Lions 2016 Galway carnival

Victory for the Lions on Saturday would see them join the Swans at the top of the ARFLI list of Premiership winners with five, if the Redbacks win they will get their third title.  The Lions previous victories are a distant memory for some younger players coming in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007.  In contrast the Redbacks achieved their Premierships much more recently in 2012 and 2014.

The Lions this season have been a mixture of experience and youth with their efforts developing the UCC club paying off as more players are coming into the Lions’ ranks.  As well as youth the Lions have experience in the likes of Ian O’Sullivan and Cian Quigley.  Both these players have represented the Lions and Ireland with distinction with Kinsale native Quigley being the captain of the 2011 AFL International Cup winning Irish Warriors.  Another Corkman O’Sullivan, played in the 2005 and 2008 AFL International Cup and was selected on the 2008 team of the tournament.  The Lions also have eight players in their ranks going to the 2016 AFL European Championships in London later in the month including 2014 International Cup runners-up Muiris Bartley and Conor Halloran.  One notable absence for the Lions will be regular ruckman Dom Joyce who is getting married on Saturday.  At least if the Lions manage the win it will be a double celebration.

2014 Premiership winning Redbacks
2014 Premiership winning Redbacks

The Redbacks are again in a Grand Final, familiar ground for them in recent years.  Their most recent finals appearances have been close affairs with a one point victory over Galway Magpies in 2014 followed by a two point loss to South Dublin Swans last year.  The Redbacks also have the largest number of Ireland players going to play in the European Championships with ten in total.  They won’t lack in finals experience and are expected to be driven on by influential players such as David McElhone and Gerard Walls, who incidentally played against each other in last year’s Antrim GAA senior county final.  Gareth Baird will be the one to watch in the ruck contests for the Redbacks and former Irish Warriors player and manager Shaun McElhone is expected to use all his experience to advantage in the forward line.

In summing up, Lions will go in as slight favourites based on their form of this year, however the absence of Dominic Joyce is a loss for them.  The Redbacks have been here many times recently and are used to playing tight finals footy.  They also showed they aren’t going to be push overs this year when only losing to the Lions by a point at the Belfast carnival.  The final is expected to be another close game with the team with greater desire for victory possibly edging it.

Since 2014 the winners of each of the European leagues have been invited to compete in the AFL Europe Champions League in Amsterdam, this is another huge incentive for each team.  It is forecast to be warm and humid on Saturday, so get down to the Mardyke’s main GAA pitch, ball up at 3pm in what promises to be an intriguing game, admission is free.

 

Belfast Redbacks reach Grand Final

After the play-offs for the second Grand Final spot it was the Belfast Redbacks that emerged with the required two wins to join the Leeside Lions in the 2016 ARFLI Grand Final.  The play-off saw the Redbacks, South Dublin Swans and Galway Magpies play-off for the remaining Grand Final spot in 40 minutes games.

 

In mild and sunny conditions in Islandbridge the first game was a repeat of last year’s Grand Final between the Redbacks and the Swans.  Both teams had strong squads although absent for the Swans was former Jim Stynes medallist Paul O’Halloran.  The Swans who were playing in new guernseys opened the sharper and at the first break were 3.2 20 to 2.1 13 in front.  However the Redbacks had a much stronger second half and ran out winners 3.3 21 to 7.4 46.  That was enough to knock the Swans out and they’ll wonder were it all went wrong having had such a positive first half.  For the Redbacks the win meant if they could double up against the Magpies they’d be in the final.

South Dublin Swans new guernseys
South Dublin Swans new guernseys

That second game opened as a tight tussle between the Magpies (who also were showing off new guernseys) and the Redbacks.  As the game progressed the Redbacks gained control and held out for the victory.  The final game saw the Swans face off against the Magpies.  Without the opportunity to reach the final the game was played in a relaxed fashion with the Swans winning an entertaining encounter.  The result of the playoffs was; Redbacks 2 wins, Swans 1 win, Magpies 0 wins.

magpies new guernsey
Galway Magpies with new guernseys

So the Redbacks advance to the Grand Final where they will play the Leeside Lions.  The Grand Final is fixed for the Mardyke, Cork City at 3pm August 6th.

Finals Footy this weekend

With Leeside Lions already guaranteed a spot in the 2016 ARFLI Grand Final the other three teams battle it out this Saturday July 23rd to join them.  After the final carnival round in Islandbridge on July 9th the Lions remained undefeated after defeating the Magpies and the Swans defeated the Redbacks.  These results didn’t change the ladder positions with the Lions top undefeated on 9 wins, second are the Magpies with 4 wins, then the Redbacks with 3 and the Swans with 2 wins.

This Saturday again in Islandbridge the Magpies, Redbacks and Swans will play for the final spot in the Grand Final to be played in Cork on Auguest 6th.  These are expected to be close games with all teams taking wins against each other over the carnival rounds.

Fixtures:

12:30pm Belfast Redbacks v South Dublin Swans

1:20pm Belfast Redbacks v Galway Magpies

2:10pm Galway Magpies v South Dublin Swans

 

Venue: Civil Service GAA grounds, Islandbridge, Dublin

Lions make Grand Final

After Rounds 7 and 8 of the season at the Belfast carnival, Leeside Lions have secured their place in the 2016 ARFLI Grand Final as they are now uncatchable at the top of the ladder with one round of games to go.  This will be their first Grand Final appearance since 2011 when they lost out to the South Dublin Swans in Durrow.

 

The Lions secured their Grand Final spot after the narrowest of victories over the Belfast Redbacks before defeating the South Dublin Swans in their second game.  The Lions clash with the Redbacks ended in a one point victory for the Southerners.  As was expected it was a tight tussle from the first bounce with both teams keen to claim the points.  However the Lions just managed to get over the line.  The Lions second game was a little easier with a six goal margin over the Swans.

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It was also a good day for the Galway Magpies who managed two from two on the day putting themselves second in the ladder.  They opened with a victory over the Redbacks, their first away win in Belfast in their history.  Then they had a close battle with the Swans before running out five point winners.  A notable player for the Magpies on the day was former Collingwood AFL star Marty Clarke.  These were important wins for the Pies as it puts them second in the ladder at the moment and may give them a psychological lift heading for finals.

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Last year’s Grand Finalists the Swans and the Redbacks have a little catching up to do but it would be unusual for neither of these teams to make the Grand Final having won the last five Premierships between them.

The women’s teams were also out in force in Belfast as preparations continue for the upcoming European championships in London in August.

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Women’s game photos here https://www.facebook.com/UlsterKookaburras/photos/?tab=album&album_id=606799712820856

Men’s games photos here https://www.facebook.com/AltMediaProductions/photos

Next carnival is the Dublin Demons/Angels carnival at the Civil Service GAA Grounds,  Islandbridge, Dublin on Saturday July 9th.  Fixtures are 12:30pm Magpies v Lions, 1:20pm Swans v Redbacks 2:20pm ARFLI select v Irish Warriors.  Women’s game 12:30 Ulster Kookaburras v Dublin Angels.

Belfast Carnival Scores:

Redbacks vs Galway Magpies 5.6.36 to 9.2.56
Swans v Galway Magpies  7.5.47 to 8.4.52
Redbacks v Lions 4.7.31 to 4.8.32
Lions v Swans 10.8.68 to 4.2.26

Ladder:
Leeside Lions (W) 8 (L) 0
Galway Magpies (W) 4 (L) 4
Belfast Redbacks (W) 3 (L) 5
South Dublin Swans (W) 1 (L) 7

Marty Clarke makes ARFLI debut

Former AFL star Marty Clarke made his ARFLI debut on Saturday last at the Belfast Carnival.  Lining out for Galway Magpies he was impressive in helping the Pies to their first ever away win against the Belfast Redbacks.  Wearing his most recent Collingwood guernsey and Co Down shorts he looked fit and strong.  The Pies beat the Redbacks by 17 points before overturning the South Dublin Swans by 4 points in an exciting second game.

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Clarke who started his career as a star underage Gaelic footballer for County Down first went to Collingwood in 2007 and impressed from the start.  He earned a nomination in the NAB AFL Rising Star award in just his second ever AFL game having scored three goals against Hawthorn.   At his best, Clarke was one of the AFL’s brightest young hopes.  In his debut season 2007 he helped Collingwood to finals before narrowly losing a famous Preliminary Final to Geelong.

He returned to Ireland at the end of the 2009 season citing his desire to return home and to play Gaelic football.  In 2010 he was a star performer for County Down as they got to the All-Ireland final, a game they lost to Cork by just one point.  Clarke was recognised for his efforts with an All-Star award that year.

Clarke returned to Collingwood at the start of preseason in October 2011 and played three more years with the Pies.  However a condition called Addison’s disease, which stops the adrenal glands from producing hormones and leads to chronic fatigue cut his AFL career short.  In total Clarke played 73 games for Collingwood over two three-year stints.

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Clark who is now a student at Queen’s University Belfast played in midfield for the Galway Magpies in Belfast and his game sense and accurate passing and goal kicking were impressive.  Clark who played Sigerson Cup Gaelic football for Queen’s University this year also hopes to resurrect his County Down GAA career in the near future.  If he is interested and available he would be an exciting addition to the Irish Warriors team for the 2017 AFL International Cup in Melbourne next August.

Belfast Carnival on Saturday

The ARFLI clubs head to Belfast this coming Saturday June 25th for Rounds 7 and 8 of the season.  Currently the Leeside Lions top the men’s ladder being undefeated so far and they are seen as favourites for the flag at this stage.  With the Redbacks at home they are expected to have a large squad and may be able to recover some points having lost three games so far this season.  The pick of the games is expected to be the Redbacks against the Lions.  The Magpies and the Swans will also be hoping to get further wins to boost their confidence heading towards finals.

The women will again be playing in Belfast as the Ulster Kookaburras host the Dublin Angels.  Games are being played at Cherryvale Playing Fields, BT6 8EE with first bounce at 1pm.

Full Fixtures:

Kookaburras v Angels (women’s game)

Magpies v Swans

Redbacks v Lions

Magpies v Demons

Redbacks v Swans

Demons v Lions