Irish Watch: AFLW Round 3 Review

It was another action packed weekend of AFLW, as round three delivered some historic victories, high flyers and hard hits much to the delight of fans around Australia.

With both conference ladders beginning to take shape competition is continuing to heat up with the extra teams adding to the spectacle that is AFLW.

Friday night saw St Kilda claim their first ever AFLW win against Melbourne in front of their loyal home supporters at the club’s heartland of Moorabbin.

One of the form sides of the competition, many expected the Demons to take care of their business and continue their undefeated start to 2020.

However, the determination of the Saints was evident for all to see as they didn’t let Melbourne get anything on their own terms and played full of heart for all four quarters.

Although Irishwoman Clara Fitzpatrick would miss out on the momentous match due to injury, it was a historic night for the St Kilda Club and something that put a smile on the face of all football fans.

Melbourne’s Irish pair Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy would take the field on Friday night and put in spirited performances on a poor night for their team.

Having 7 disposals each, both Goldrick and McEvoy continue to look more accustomed to the game with their pressure on the opposition and ability to read the play improving every week.

Carlton bounced back from their disappointing loss to Collingwood last week with an eye catching win against the Western Bulldogs away from home at the Whitten Oval.

In a high scoring encounter, last year’s grand finalists were on from the first siren with their fluent ball movement and brutal attack on the ball overwhelming the young Dogs.

 Although her team struggled all afternoon, Aisling McCarthy continued her remarkable second season rise with another prolific performance in the Bulldogs midfield.  

Picking up 16 disposals, 4 marks and 2 tackles, McCarthy is quickly becoming one of the most exciting players in the competition, with her speed and football smarts a pleasure to watch.

The first AFLW QClash would prove to be a game for the ages as the two Queensland sides could not split at Metricon Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

In a match that was filled with drama, both sides cracked in all day with their ferocity and work around the contest simply astounding to watch.  

A see sawing contest all day long, the margin rarely ventured over a goal as fans up north were gifted a fantastic game of football.

Irishwoman Orla O’Dwyer continued the excellent start to her AFLW career with another promising performance inside the Lions forward 50.

A gifted athlete, O’Dwyer used her natural born talent to constantly stay dangerous and put pressure on the Suns defenders.

Picking up 10 disposals, O’Dwyer proved herself to be an exciting prospect for the Lions as they push towards the finals.

It was a battle of the heavyweights in Perth on Saturday night as Fremantle became the competitions only undefeated side with a win over the red hot Magpies.

A fierce battle from the get go, it looked very much like a grand final preview in the West with the standard of football at an all time high.  

A close match throughout, both sides enjoyed periods of dominance before the class of the Dockers saw them push ahead late to claim a season defining victory.

Sarah Rowe’s season continued to get better with yet another prolific performance through the midfield for the Magpies.

The second highest possession winner on the ground with 22 disposals, Rowe’s class was evident all day with her work rate and ability to hit targets critical for the Pies who hung with the Dockers all night.

GWS moved into the top three of conference A with a much needed win against cellar dwellers West Coast on Sunday afternoon at Blacktown International Sports Park.  

Dominant from start to finish, the Giants bullied the young Eagles with their bigger bodies and skill level to claim a 28 point victory.

Veteran Cora Staunton embraced a move forward with her usual class and professionalism, playing a vital role in the overall success of the Giants attack.  

Picking up 10 disposals, it seemed as if whenever Staunton touched the ball something positive happened for GWS as she constantly made the Eagles defenders sweat and brought her teammates into the game.

She would also put through a goal in what was a great day all around for the Giants.

By Zac Standish

Irish Watch: AFLW Round 2 Review

Round two of the AFLW would be one full of epic comebacks, tight finishes and incredible skill as a number of teams put themselves firmly in finals contention.

Highlighted by the first ever women’s western derby, this weekend was one for football’s oldest rivalries as Collingwood and Carlton also clashed in a battle for bragging rights.

A staggering 16 Irish girls would run onto fields around the country over the round with a number of first year players showing they are quickly adapting to the intricacies of Australian rules football.

Friday night saw football return to the Whitten Oval as the Western Bulldogs played host to the in form Demons in a replay of the first ever AFL women’s matches.

In what has developed into a fierce rivalry it was a tight contest from start to finish as both sides cracked in hard and really embraced the contest. 

However, it’d be the class of Melbourne that allowed the game to eventually open up as they managed to get on top through the middle of the ground and torch the Bulldogs with their overlap run to claim a clinical 20 point victory.

Second year dog Aisling McCarthy backed up her outstanding performance last week with another excellent outing as she continues to come into her own in that wing/half forward role.  

Picking up 15 disposals, two marks and eight tackles, it really was a complete performance from McCarthy as she looks to further develop her game and become one of the competitions most exciting players.

 

For the Demons, defender Sinead Goldrick showed some positive signs with her tough defensive intensity and ability to read the play critical to what was an outstanding defensive performance from the Melbourne Football Club.

Ending up with 9 disposals and 2 tackles, Goldrick showed herself to be a solid contributor for the Demons who with a 2-0 record look set for a run at this year’s finals series.

North Melbourne bounced back from their shock round one loss with an 18 point win over the inaccurate GWS Giants at their Tasmanian home of North Hobart Oval.

The Giants inability to make the most of their opportunities would prove costly on a blustery Hobart’s day, as the class of the Kangaroo’s forward line made them pay on multiple occasions. 

Second gamer Aileen Gilroy provided some speed for the Roos all game as despite only having seven touches she showed great composure and was able to make things happen with ball in hand.

35,000 fans packed into Optus Stadium for the first ever women’s western derby on a beautiful Saturday night in Perth.

In what was a much anticipated contest, the Dockers flexed their muscles from the beginning as the inexperienced simply could not run with the in form Fremantle side.

Some much needed revenge for Fremantle who have struggled in recent Men’s derby’s, it was a sight for sore eyes for Dockers fans as they handed their old foes a 45 point battering.

Despite it being a very poor night for the Eagles, Irishwoman Niamh Kelly would give it her all from siren to siren and ended up being one of her side’s only real positives.

Playing on the wing, Kelly would pick up 13 disposals as she used her speed to get into space and try and hurt the Dockers on the counter attack.

Collingwood continued their good form with a win against bitter rivals Carlton at Ikon Park on Sunday afternoon.

The new look Pies were on from the opening bounce, with their attack on the ball and ability to spread simply too much for the struggling Blues. 

Playing a very attractive brand of football, the Magpies look to be past the troubles that plagued their first three AFLW seasons and finally ready for a run at the finals.

A key part to the Pies success has been the quick rise of Irish duo Sarah Rowe and Aishling Sheridan, who seem to be going from strength to strength in the midfield group.

Blessed with an ability to run and use the ball well, the pair would pick up 12 and 14 disposals respectively with both managing to get on top of their Carlton opponents with ease.

With a tougher matchup with the Dockers in Perth next weekend, the Pies will need the Irish girls at their best if they are to continued their undefeated start to 2020.

The final match of the round saw reigning premiers Adelaide take on the inexperienced Saints in a see sawing affair at Hisense Arena.

St Kilda would get the jump on the Crows with an outstanding two goals to nil first quarter, before some excellent defence and counter attack play saw them maintain their lead for the majority of the afternoon.

However, you can’t write off the quality of the Crows who even without Phillips and Randall mounted an epic last quarter comeback to storm past the Saints and run away 13 point winners.  

Irishwoman Clara Fitzpatrick would produce an extremely brave performance for St Kilda down back as she managed to keep the Crows dangerous forward line quiet for the majority of the afternoon.  

Picking up 8 disposals and 2 marks it was a gritty game by the key defender who produced one of the highlights of the rounds as she went back with the flight in the game’s dying stages and almost pulled off one of the best marks ever seen in AFLW football.  

The incident would result in the brave Irishwoman having to come off the ground with a head injury putting her in doubt for next week’s match against Melbourne.

 

By Zac Standish

Irish Watch: AFLW Round 1 Review

It was a monumental start to the AFLW’s fourth season with the introduction of four new club’s highlighting an exciting return to football in 2020.

St Kilda, Richmond, West Coast and Gold Coast all started their AFLW journeys with high hopes over the weekend as fans flocked to stadiums around the country to support this newly expanded version of the AFLW.  With so many storylines developing over the offseason and across round one it would be easy for the casual fan to overlook another dramatic expansion in women’s football.  

This is the incredible rise in the number of Irish footballers on AFLW lists, having gone from six in 2019 to an astonishing 18 in 2020. With our Irish contingent now tripled, expect more excitement than ever before this season as we get to see some of the world’s most accomplished female athletes show their skills in our very own backyard.

So let’s take a look at how the girls faired in their respective season openers and what we have to look forward to over the coming weeks.

 

It would be a traditional beginning to the 2020 AFLW season as Richmond and Carlton opened a new chapter to their rivalry at Ikon Park on Friday night. With stars such as Katie Brennan, Sabrina Frederick and Monique Conti suiting up in the yellow and black, big things were expected from the Tigers as they looked to get their AFLW career off to a flying start.  

However the Blues are reigning grand finalists for a reason, and despite losing some key players in the offseason showed off their excellent depth and experience to overawe the Richmond side. Fermanagh’s Joanne Doonan would be the first Irishwoman to take the field in 2020 and was very solid on debut in the Navy Blue.

Playing as a small forward, Doonan would use her speed and strength to harass the Richmond defenders and have an impact away from the stats sheet. Picking up five disposals, it was clear that Doonan became more comfortable as the game progressed with her raw athleticism giving Carlton fans plenty to get excited about moving forward.

The Gold Coast Suns would begin their AFLW journey in torrential rain and gusting winds as they faced GWS at Sydney’s Blacktown International Park. Faced with 90-150mm of rain, it was certainly a match for the purists as players from both sides put their bodies on the line for all four quarters in what can only be described as a slog. 

With the score tight for the duration, it would come down to that little bit of polish and experience by GWS that got over the line by the slimmest of margins. Easily the competitions most accomplished Irish player, veteran Cora Staunton showed her class on Saturday afternoon as the hard nosed midfielder was prolific through the middle of the ground for GWS. Picking up 14 disposals and 3 tackles, it was clear Staunton was a fan of the wet and wild conditions as she cracked in all day and proved herself to be one of the competitions grittiest midfielders.

Melbourne began their fourth AFLW season in style on Saturday afternoon with a come from behind win against premiership fancies North Melbourne at Casey Fields.

Inspired by the return of skipper Daisy Pearce, the Demons never die attitude was on full display as they attacked the contest hard and were able to work their way back into the contest after falling behind by two goals early.  

One of two Irish players to make her debut in the epic clash, North Melbourne’s Aileen Gilroy was superb all day as she adapted to the pace and intricacies of the game excellently to play a key role. Playing across half forward and up on the wing, Gilroy used her speed and excellent skills to set up a lot of North Melbourne’s play and impact the contest in what was a very hectic final quarter.  

Finishing with 10 disposals, four marks and a tackle, it was a splendid debut for County Mayo product who will without a doubt play a key role for North moving forward.

Brisbane would open their season with a win against injury riddled reigning premiers Adelaide as they continued their perfect round one record.The Lions were dominant from start to finish at Hickey Park with the sides unsung heroes making all the difference against an Adelaide side devoid of game breakers such as Erin Phillips and Chelsea Randall.

One of the highlights of the games for Brisbane was the performance of Irish debutant Orla O’Dwyer as she provided a much needed spark for the Lions in the forward 50. Causing headaches all day for the Adelaide defenders, O’Dwyer gathered 8 disposals, one mark and one tackle with her skills and athletic ability on display for all to see.

She would also kick one of the goals of the weekend as she gathered the ball 30 metres out from goal, broke past an Adelaide player and produced a beautiful finish around the body to help extend Brisbane’s margin.

Collingwood gave West Coast a tough introduction to the AFLW on Sunday afternoon with a big win at their traditional Victoria Park home.  The pies were solid from start to finish in front of their home crowd, with Irish debutant Aishling Sheridan and second year Irishwoman Sarah Rowe both playing integral roles.

Combining inside the forward 50, the pair got into the game early with their ability to apply pressure and hit targets helping Collingwood’s attack click into gear. Gathering 9 and 8 disposals along with 3 and 2 tackles respectively, the Collingwood coaching staff will be buoyed by this duo and what they can produce as the Pies look to play finals for the first time in their history.  

The Western Bulldogs began their 2020 campaign on a high as they spoiled the party for newcomers St Kilda at RSEA Park in Moorabbin. It was a dominant four quarter display from the Bulldogs, who despite losing some stars in the offseason looked every bit of a premiership contender.  

After showing glimpses in her first season, Aisling McCarthy showed her off season improvement in what was the best performance of her short career. Moving up more towards the wing, she was able to get more involved in the Dogs ball movement and thrived with her speed and ability to break the lines.

Finishing with 13 disposals, 3 marks and 3 tackles, McCarthy proved herself to be one of her sides most valuable players and will definitely be one to watch in the following weeks.

Fitzpatrick Cup 2020 Review

Europe’s best University teams descended on the Horspath Sports Grounds in Oxford this weekend, as men’s and women’s teams battled it out to be crowned Fitzpatrick Cup 2020 Champions.

After being snowed out in 2019, there had been plenty of changeover in the squads over the past two years leaving plenty of unknowns within the competition. We also had two new countries represented with the attendance of new teams from Denmark and Wales, which shows the exciting growth of University footy across the continent.

Women’s Competition

Group Stages

Reigning women’s Champions, the UCC Crusaders, proved dominant in the pool stages of the competition with an undefeated run and a clear margin over the other three teams. With almost an entirely new squad from the 2018 winners, and with many of the team playing their first ever games of Australian Football, the Crusaders were an impressive outfit from the very first match.

Cambridge, with a more experienced squad, also made an impact in the pool stages with convincing wins over Birmingham and Oxford. Finishing second in the women’s pool qualified them for the grand final, to take on the defending champs in the big dance.

The hosting Oxford team showed spirit all day, holding their own in their tougher matches and gaining a much needed victory over the Birmingham women. Birmingham, with a largely new squad, showed continued improvement throughout the pool matches but struggled to get a win on the board.

Finals

With the top two finishing teams qualifying for the grand final, the third and fourth placed sides from Oxford and Birmingham competed for third place in the women’s division. Birmingham put up a solid fight, playing their strongest game of the day, but the home team proved too tough for them and Oxford came away with the bronze after defeating Birmingham 36-7.

The women’s grand final was a tense affair with both teams struggling to take a real lead in the match. The Irish visitors looked like they would retain their title in the second half, but a quick comeback from Cambridge in the final minutes saw them a single point ahead when the final siren went. Cambridge came away winners with a final score of 18-17.

Men’s Competition

Group Stages

Pool A:

Men’s Pool A consisted of Birmingham, CIT1, SDU, UCC2, and Oxford 2. The experienced campaigners from Birmingham and CIT1 took out the top two spots comfortably, while the Danish debutants from SDU exceeded expectations by finishing third in Pool A despite being the first ever games for many of their players. UCC2 and Oxford 2 rounded out the bottom of Pool A whilst their firsts-team counterparts competed in Pool B.

Pool B:

Men’s Pool B consisted of UCC1, Oxford 1, Cambridge, Cardiff Met, and CIT2. Defending champs UCC1 and the hosting Oxford 1 thrived, taking out the top of the pool. Cambridge wasn’t far behind, finishing up third in the group after a tough loss to their old Varsity rivals from Oxford. The Welsh newcomers from Cardiff Met held their own in the pool stages, finishing up fourth, while CIT2 struggled with a lack of numbers in their squad and rounded out the bottom of Pool B.

Finals:

CIT2 and Oxford 2 battled it out to stay off the bottom of the ladder, competing in the 9th place match. CIT2 proved they still had fight in them after five tough matches, and came away with a final win defeating Oxford2 33-17.

In the 7th place playoff, UCC2 took on Cardiff Met in one of the closest matches of the day with UCC2 running out winners with an eventual score of 16-15.

Cambridge won their final match comfortably, with a 39-11 point win over SDU in the Men’s 5th place match.

Oxford1 proved they had the home team advantage in their final match of the day, and finished on a high with a 27-18 point win over CIT1 to take out the men’s third place title.

The Men’s Grand Final was a tense one, with two fantastically skilled teams giving it their all to take home the 2020 Fitzpatrick Cup. Birmingham fought hard but were outdone by reigning champions UCC1  who took home the chocolates with a 33-27 win over Birmingham.

 

Final Standings:

Women’s Division:

  1. Cambridge
  2. UCC
  3. Oxford
  4. Birmingham

Men’s Division:

  1. UCC1
  2. Birmingham
  3. Oxford 1
  4. CIT1
  5. Cambridge
  6. SDU
  7. UCC2
  8. Cardiff Met
  9. CIT2
  10. Oxford 2

 

Individual Awards:

Team of the Tournament:

Women’s Team of the Tournament

Cambridge – Kate Franklin

Birmingham – Sarah Sheedy

Oxford – Connie Hurton

CAPTAIN – UCC – Rachel Murphy 

Men’s Team of the Tournament

UCC1 – Liam Dineen

UCC2 – Eoin McNabola

CIT1 – James O Shea

CIT2 – Jack Hayes

Cambridge – John Hickey

Oxford 1 – Nick Stenner

Oxford 2 – Nick Brunton

SDU – Morten Merhoj Mose

Cardiff Met – Oliver Rees

CAPTAIN – Birmingham – Zac Di Giuseppe 

Umpire of the Tournament:

Adrian Masterman-Smith

 

Many thanks to all of our Umpires, Pitch Managers, Physios, Danny Radis Photography, Team Managers, Coaches and Players for a fantastic tournament. The Fitzpatrick Cup continues to grow year on year and it is not without the support of these incredible people.

A very special thankyou to Oxford University Australian Rules Football Club and their President Kate Leslie for being fantastic hosts of the event. Their hard work was very much appreciated by all that attended!

More photos by Danny Radis Photography available on our Facebook here. 

 

Fitzpatrick Cup 2020 Team Previews: Birmingham University

The 2020 edition of the Fitzpatrick Cup is just around the corner, with the finest University teams in Europe set to descend on Horspath Athletics Ground this Saturday, February 8th. Finishing up our Team Previews are Fitz Cup regulars, Birmingham University, who are back in Oxford with both men’s and women’s squads. UOBARFC President, Jake Joint, gives some insights into their tournament preparation below.

 

What has the last year looked like for Birmingham?

The year has been off to a great start for Birmingham seeing a record number of players and huge expanses of the Women’s team. Last year the Women’s won the NUL Grand Final with the men as runners up. Both squads have performed very well this year, with the men topping the NUL table.

 

What’s the aim of the team for this years competition ?

The aim of the tournament is to show how the Birmingham side has developed since the last Fitzpatrick two years ago. We are fortunate enough to enter a Women’s team this time round and are looking to give them some experience playing some very strong teams.

The tournament is back in England this year, much closer to home, will that help?

It will definitely help with our availability, we have lots of players keen to get out there! We will see whether the home advantage helps on the day.

 

Any young stars to keep our eye on?

We’ve seen a lot of rising stars this year, the two to watch out for are George Pepper and Megi Alexander.

 

What’s the key strength of the team?

We have many new players who have came from a variety of sports, these have given the team many different perspectives and lots of enthusiasm.

 

Who’s the coach in charge for this tournament?

We have Rob Morton and Theodore Wrigley as our Men’s coaches. We also have Eliza Larkey, Lottie Colquhoun and Phoebe Dalgas heading our Women’s team, the three of them have taken the team from strength to strength.

Fitzpatrick Cup 2020 Team Previews: Cardiff Met

The 2020 edition of the Fitzpatrick Cup is just around the corner, with the finest University teams in Europe set to descend on Horspath Athletics Ground this Saturday, February 8th. Next up in our Team Previews are tournament debutants, Cardiff Met University, who are travelling across for their first Fitzpatrick Cup after getting the team off the ground last year. Cardiff’s Conor Neeson recaps the team’s first season in the NUL and their aims for the tournament below.

 

What has the last year looked like for Cardiff Met? 

Over the past year AFL has become more and more popular throughout the South Wales universities, particularly Cardiff Met which has become the home of AFL for students in South Wales. With the team starting up last year we have seen five ladies and three men’s players represent the National University League All-Star team against the Irish select, where they all did the club proud with the men coming away with a hard fought win against their Irish counterparts and the ladies putting up a strong fight against the Irish team who had a vast Gaelic football experience through the spine of their team.

This year we have seen a major improvement in both men’s and ladies’ squads in terms of interest, quality of players and performances. The ladies are dominating their league with one loss (in their first game of the season) and five wins on the bounce with many throwing their names in the hat for an All-Star selection. The men’s team have shown a lot of promise for a young and fairly inexperienced team against some of the most well-established teams in GB universities.

This year has also seen the introduction of our new kit which was provided by Cardiff Met SU, this group of players are going to show what Wales is about this season in the NUL and have some teams looking over their shoulders.

 

What’s the team’s aim for 2020? 

The main aim for this season is to ensure we develop the younger inexperienced players as much as possible through training and game time. We have a strong coaching who know the ins and outs of AFL and we have full confidence in their game plans and set ups to push us to the next level and really compete with the other universities within the NUL.

There is a strong mix of experience and inexperience within the team which is only positive as we have the opportunity to show the new players this amazing game and provide them game time against some of the best.

 

How’s the team feeling coming into their Fitzpatrick Cup debut?

This season is the first chance for us to compete in the Fitzpatrick cup, the men’s team have entered a team while the ladies’ team are focusing on their push for the league.

The men’s team are looking strong, getting better game after game, and showing the never say die attitude we all love to see in sport. This is another opportunity to push on the team and make a statement to other universities and try to make an annual appearance at the Fitzpatrick cup.

Any young stars to keep our eyes on? 

This year has seen an introduction of many new players from a range of sporting backgrounds, and we look forward to training them and providing the foundations for them to become quality AFL players.

Owain Studley – a tough tackling ball of energy who gives his all on the pitch. From west Wales, Owain has a sporting history of rugby and loves a strong tackle to let the opposition know he is there and not afraid of the contact area of the game.

Josh Whamond – a strong aerial presence in the ruck. Originally from Canada, Josh found his is love of AFL from his dad but never had the chance to play in Canada, he moved to Cardiff for his university studies and jumped at the chance to get involved in the sport he loves so much.

Harrison Tresidder – another player who just does not know when to stop running and hassling the opposition to win the ball back. Harrison lived in Australia for a period of time and took an interest in AFL before moving back home to England. Like many others in the team he moved to Cardiff for university and jumped at the chance to play AFL.

 

What’s the key strength of the team? 

There are too many strengths to identify within this group of players and coaches; the team morale, the organisation in the background, the togetherness on and off the pitch. But the key strength of this group of players is the never back down attitude we have on the field, we know we don’t have as much experience as other teams but have played enough to understand that effort and fight is 90% of the battle in games and always push until the end. This is the impression we aim to make in the league and leave other teams thinking how much fight Cardiff Met have and that we will never back down.

 

Who’s the Coach in charge for this tournament?

Our coaching team has a vast knowledge of the game with MANY years of experience (mainly from Kim Swain)…

Alongside Kim who assists with training the individual skills to the new players to improve their kicking technique and way around the footie, we have Mr. David Saunders. Dave has played AFL for many years now and recently retired due to injury, he has represented GB, Wales and Cardiff Panthers on numerous occasions, and we are privileged to have him within our coaching ranks.

Alongside the two oldies we have two current players who help run training, Calumn Newman and Scotty Jones, Cal recently started coaching the team after sustaining an injury at the tail end of last season and we hope to have him back soon! While Scott brings a different variation of coaching and really understands the nitty gritty aspects of the game in the contact area and the importance of fitness.

We are looking forward to seeing how much this coaching team can push us on this year and make Cardiff Met AFL a team to keep an eye on in the next couple of years.

Fitzpatrick Cup 2020 Team Previews: UCC

The 2020 edition of the Fitzpatrick Cup is just around the corner, with the finest University teams in Europe set to descend on Horspath Athletics Ground this Saturday, February 8th. Next up in our Team Previews are current Fitz Cup reigning champions, University College Cork. UCC Bombers came out of the 2018 tournament victorious, whilst the UCC Crusaders took home the chocolates in the women’s division. Below, we hear from Crusaders Coach Mike Currane and Bombers Coach Ian O’Sullivan on how their 3 squads are preparing to defend their crowns.

 

 

What has the last year looked like for UCC?
Ian: The UCC Bombers have had a great season to date. We have new coaches and lots of new players joining the club so there’s a been a bit of transition and getting to know each other before Christmas.  With new coaches and lots new players it’s created a very healthy competitive atmosphere. We’ve used the competitions before Christmas to blood players as much as possible to allow players to explore and find their best and favoured positions as well as allowing coaches to find our best. Our intent all season has been to peak at the Fitz. And we’re right where we want to be! 
Mike: This year has seen the UCC Crusaders basically have to rebuild from scratch. The original Fitz Cup which was won in 2017 & 2018 and missed out due to the cancelled tournament in 2019 have almost all graduated and moved on into the real world. Only 3 players remain as a link to the original line up. As such it has been a busy year of recruiting and training and laying the foundations for a team that will hopefully be around for the next few years. 
What’s the aim of the team for this years competition ?
Ian: To win! Simple as. We have two great teams travelling and we would be very disappointed to not come back with the Cup.
Mike: As it is essentially a completely new team the primary aim is that everybody enjoys the Fitz Cup and the experience of an away Aussie Rules tournament. We will aim for high energy and effort and a good performance. Anything else will be a bonus, this will be strongest competition yet with all the UK teams having come on in leaps and bounds mainly due to structures and regular games being played in the National University League. 

Any young stars to keep our eye on?
Ian: We’ve had a fantastic influx of new players this year with some guys taking to the game and skills quicker than expected. Keep your eye on Kieran O’Reilly up front who’s kick is better than some guys playing the game for years. In defence we have Liam Dineen who will harass and forward, run all day and score from deep. Conchubhair O’Beaslaoi is another tank in defence and will give any forward who dares take him on a torrid time ! And in the mids, James Daly is a natural vocal leader (co-captain) that will die for the cause.
Mike: Any of these players that have come out and tried a completely new sport in their first few months in college in what is already a massively challenging time for any student is already a star. Look out for the experience of Mary Hurley, and CJ Murphy  as the now “senior” players on the squad to stand out, and expect exciting play and high intensity effort from the young guns including Captain Caroline Condon, Diana O’Driscoll, Ciara Corbett , Rachel Murphy, Séadna O’Sullivan, Lucy Coakley and Fiona Hannon.  

Key strength of the team?
Ian: Hunger and desire in every sense. These guys have a massive desire to perform and hunger to succeed. The improvement in skills and game knowledge etc from early September has been very impressive. They are physical and will give everything on the day to help their team and club succeed.
Mike: One of the key strengths of the team will be that they will have No Fear. This should help flip a potential negative of having in general no experience of playing at this level or indeed of the game at all in terms of match play, into a huge positive. This combined with massive energy levels and enthusiasm at the footy should see this group of Crusaders be a hard team to beat. 
Who’s the coach in charge for this tournament?
Ian: Myself and Paul Ryan are joint coaches this year. We’ve brought some fresh ideas and injected even more enthusiasm to the club. I’ve been playing the game since 2002 with the Leeside Lions. I’ve represented Ireland in World Cup tournaments in 2005 and 2008. Paul has been around as long and has managed Ireland teams in the past to success. So far, we’ve worked well together and with the players to enhance this great club even further. 
Mike: After being coached from formation by Irish Aussie Rules Legend Marie Keating across 2017, 2018 & 2019, who achieved great success winning back to back cups in Cork, I’ll be coaching this year’s new look team, as the current Coach of the Irish Banshees and head of AFL Ireland Women’s.