The Irish Warriors are the most successful team in the International Cup, having won the event twice and placed in the top four at every other event since. They are the current title holders. Along with Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, the Irish are in the upper echelon of international sides. They are currently ranked third overall for wins at the cup with 78%.
In addition, the Irish are the current holders of the European Championships (18 a side), but could only manage 5th at the Euro Cup (9-a-side).
The recent resignation of the Irish coach, Shane McElhone, has opened the door to David Stynes to take the reigns for the International Cup. David Stynes is a three time international cup veteran, and the younger brother of AFL Brownlow Medalist, the late Jim Stynes. For the last three years, Stynes has been the head coach of the Moorabin Kangaroos in Victoria. He will also remain part of the playing squad for this tournament.
The Irish will be sending both mens (Warriors) and womens (Banshees) teams to the tournament, with a squad of 28 that will include 14 traveling from Ireland along with 14 based in Australia. Australian based players are playing for clubs in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
To qualify for the Irish side, players had to participate in trials in both Ireland and Australia, as well as from feedback from the relative clubs. There are a lot of new faces in the Irish squad, especially those coming from Ireland, but they were all part of the European Championship winning side.
Training for the Irish players has continued since January between ARFLI fixtures, while Australian based players continue to train with their clubs, as well as playing in the Harmony Cup earlier this year.
The Irish side has been able to attract some sponsorship through Blu Marine this year for both mens and womens sides, which will go a small way to defraying the costs of the tournament for the sides involved but the majority of funding has come from the players themselves.
AFL Europe has provided some assistance in the form of a raffle with prizes including tickets to the AFL Grand Final, a sherrin signed by Buddy Franklin, and a signed Collingwood jumper. (If you are overseas and interested in buying a raffle ticket please email email@example.com )
Ireland havent been beaten in 18 a side football since 2009. When asked about Irelands chances of beating the likes of New Guinea and New Zealand, the President of ARFLI, Paul Brogan, told me that while standards in Europe have been improving – as evidenced by the close finish in the final against Great Britain last year – its teams like New Zealand and Papua New Guinea that are still the ones to beat.
The difference between Ireland and the other contenders is a more developed grassroots system, according to Brogan. Players in New Guinea and New Zealand have the advantage of being able to pick up the sport from a very early age and develop relatively naturally, whereas Irish players have to adapt skills learnt in rugby and gaelic football to the Australian game.
The International Cup is showcasing the worldwide talent, that exists in the sport, giving the opportunity for lads to aspire to play on the greatest stage of all, the MCG. This tournament helps the development of the sport outside Australia, giving guys and girls the chance to represent their nation at a global event. – ARFLI President, Paul Brogan
Brogan says that based on history, Papua New Guinea will be one of the main challengers, but New Zealand should be favorites to take out the tournament, particularly when you factor in their excellent performance against an AFL Academy side earlier this year.
The Irish side will arrive in Melbourne on the 6th of August. The International Cup commences on August 9th.
Players to watch:
- Muirus Bartley – Plays for the Leeside Lions and has played some representative footy with the European Legion and named in the 2011 World XVIII. He kicked the winning goal to get the Irish over the line in the 2013 European Championships.
- Ronan Geraghty – currently playing for Sydney University in the NEAFL on an AFL scholarship. He debuted in July last year for the Uni after only playing the game for 18 months.
Note: AFL Europe has an article on the Irish side at http://www.afleurope.org/title-defences-no-walk-in-the-park-ic14/