Lions hand Swans first loss, Belfast go big for AFL Ireland men’s round three

Round four of the AFL Ireland men’s competition is underway this weekend but first, recap all the action from round three thanks to Reporter for AFL Ireland, Stephen O’Sullivan.

Another two games were played at either end of the country for round three of the AFL Ireland Men’s Premiership on the second last Saturday of July. The South Dublin Swans travelled south to face the Leeside Lions in Cork, while the Galway Magpies made the trip north to take on the Belfast Redbacks.

Leeside Lions v South Dublin Swans

The top of the table clash down in Delanys GAA Club in Cork was set to be a mouth-watering affair. Much like previous meetings of these two clubs, it lived up to the billing. Both clubs came into the game on the back of perfect starts to the campaign. However, the first away fixture for the Swans was to be their most testing to date.

The game got underway in glorious sunshine in Kilbarry. It was the visitors who performed well at the stoppages early on, with the likes of Dillon Browne on the end of many taps from Andrew Baldwin, the tall Aussie deputising in the ruck.

The Lions drew first blood however, with the ever impressive Darren Dwyer scoring early on to set the pace of the game. Stephen Boyle, with his first goal for the Dublin side, responded in a quarter which seesawed right the way through. The Lions would take the lead going into the first break.

The second term saw the home side turn the screw. Kevin Jones, the impressive Lions midfielder, was a constant thorn in the side of the Swans and he began to see a lot of the pill as the second term progressed.

James Hegarty and Jerry Cronin formed a good partnership down back for the Leesiders, while the experienced Paul Murphy acted as sweeper in front of the defence. This kept the Swans somewhat quieter in the second term, as the Lions forwards went to work.

A score of 61 to 33 in favour of the home side concluded the first half.

The Swans rallied and came out fighting in the third. Buoyed by the return of Declan Morgan who had a fantastic game in the middle for the Swans, the visitors tried to mount a comeback. The tireless Keith Wheelan grabbed his first goal for the club which was reward for his hard work throughout. Stephen Boyle added to his tally while Dan Matveyeff scored an outstanding goal from the sideline.

The task for the Dublin side was too much to ask in the final term.

The Lions regrouped and only for some inaccuracies in front of the big sticks, could have been out of sight much earlier. Padraic O’Connell, who scored three on the day was at his tricky best in the final term and could have had more with some speculative efforts from the pocket that went through for behinds.

The hardworking Swans went to the final whistle as they put their bodies on the line all day but the quality from the Leesiders told on the day. A quality game that saw the two sides produce a hard fought game and no doubt will do the same when they meet again in September.

Final Score: Leeside Lions 13. 17. (95) defeated South Dublin Swans 7. 8. (50).

Belfast Redbacks v Galway Magpies

Having had their round two clash with the Leeside Lions postponed, the Galway Magpies would head to Belfast for their second game on the road. Both sides knew that a win was a must to keep them in contention with the sides at the top.

The home side started strongly and in truth never looked back. Knowing what was at stake, Dean Skinner and Kyle Devine led by example in the forward line. The two bright sparks from their round two clash in Dublin continued their form into round three.

It was somewhat of a goal kicking competition between both on the day. The Aussie, Skinner, pipping the Tyrone man in the end; ten goals to Devine’s eight.

David McElhone, who missed the trip to the capital in round two, was back and in fine form once more in the centre of the park. The Redbacks stalwart adding four goals to his own illustrious goal scoring tally.

The Magpies, who have added a lot of new recruits to their ranks this year, can put this down as a learning curve. They were never really in this game but there will be plenty of games left in the year to make their mark on the premiership yet.

This game will give the Belfast side a lot of confidence going into their next game as they travel to face the undefeated Leeside Lions.

The Magpies will have to pick themselves up and get back in the race as they host the Swans in Galway, and no doubt they will, as they can expect to have a full compliment of players for their first home game of the season.

A whitewash in Belfast in the end.

Final Score: Belfast Redbacks 38. 13. (241) defeated Galway Magpies 0. 2. (2).

Stephen O’Sullivan – Reporter for AFL Ireland

New partnership with Disability Sports Coach

AFL Europe are excited to announce a new partnership with Disability Sports Coach.

Disability Sports Coach (DSC) is a charity that provides award-winning sport and physical activity opportunities for all disabled people.

With support from AFL London and its clubs, the partnership launched as part of DSC’s Inclusive Summer of Sports, which included the Wandsworth Paralympic Festival on Tuesday, August 3rd and Tuesday, August 10th.

The event, delivered by Disability Sports Coach with Enable, reached over 60 disabled people in South London.

At the festival, the team at AFL Europe were joined by players from the Wandsworth Demons as well as DSC Board Member and London Swans player, Adrian Hulston, to teach and share Australian Football to the participants.

Managing Director of AFL Europe, Ryan Davey, shared his delight about the new partnership with Disability Sports Coach and getting involved in the festival.

“AFL Europe has always prided ourselves on the fact that Australian Football is an inclusive sport that can be played by anyone,” said Davey.

“It is for this reason, and many others, that we are thrilled to launch this partnership with Disability Sports Coach.

“The Wandsworth Paralympic Festival was an incredible experience and AFL Europe were honoured to play a small part of it.

“There were over 60 people in attendance and despite the fact that no one had played Australian Football previously, everyone had a smile on their face and had lots of fun. Everyone wanted to know when the next AFL session would be and it is great to know that these sessions can long continue.”

AFL Europe are committed to ensuring people of all ages, and varying abilities, have the opportunity to play Australian Football and feel supported within the AFL Europe community.

“We have been eager to develop a blueprint for an AFL inclusion program that can be replicated all over Europe and we believe that we now have that blueprint,” said Davey.

“Disability Sports Coach has multiple clubs located all across London, therefore an opportunity exists for all AFL London teams, such as the Wandsworth Demons, who were with us for the festival, to get involved with DSC and help to deliver Australian Football programs to their clubs.

“We look forward to working with AFL clubs all over Europe to help them build connections with organisations similar to Disability Sports Coach and we will provide as many resources as possible to ensure everyone has an opportunity to play this great game.”

We’re pleased to hear the sport was a hit amongst all participants, as shared by Emma Cranston, Project Officer-South & East London for DSC.

“Australian Football has been a real highlight of our Wandsworth Paralympic Festival,” said Cranston.

“Nearly all participants tried the sport for the first time, and many are already asking to play the sport again. The AFL coaches delivered highly energetic and engaging sessions which were inclusive for all.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with AFL Europe and bring more inclusive AFL sessions to Wandsworth and beyond.”

AFL Europe will work with AFL Governing Bodies around Europe to establish more partnerships to ensure AFL Inclusion Programs can be delivered in every country around Europe.

Disability Sports Coach is always seeking new sports coaches and volunteers. If you would like to get involved, please contact them here.

To learn more about DSC and their inclusive programs, click here.

New team on the map! Bulgaria’s Burgas Hawks to debut in Festival of Football

The 2021 AFL Europe Festival of Football will see nearly 15 countries and up to 50 teams competing in local tournaments across Europe and all on the same day of Saturday, August 14th. For the second year in a row, a new Australian Football team will debut at the Festival of Football in Bulgaria.

History was made in last year’s AFL Europe Festival of Football for Bulgaria as they introduced the Varna Demons as their second Australian Football team in the country.

The debut of the Demons, playing against the Sofia Magpies, also marked the first-ever all-Bulgarian footy match.

This year, AFL Bulgaria are excited to welcome another new side, as the Demons head down the coast to compete against the Burgas Hawks, located in the east of the country.

The game will be played in Burgas to increase awareness of the sport in the city and to give the Hawks a flying start before hopefully competing in the AFL Bulgaria league next year.

The league, which is in its first year of running, is currently two rounds through and is played between the Demons and Magpies.

The Magpies claimed their first-ever victory in last year’s Festival of Football and continued their winning ways in round one, defeating the Demons by 12-points.

It was a different story in round two, as the Demons became the first side in Bulgaria to surpass 100-points in a game and went on to beat Sofia by five goals.

Atanas Kirachin from AFL Bulgaria is glad to see all of the hard work finally pay off and launch their third club this weekend.

“It’s really impressive how we’ve managed to get a third team on its feet in just four years,” said Kirachin.

“This game will be a celebration of our hard work. Burgas has been on the cards ever since we started our first taster sessions in the country back in 2018.”

The Hawks will be up for the fight tomorrow and striving for their dream debut but face an improving Demons side, who will be eager to continue their winning momentum.

The Demons showed a very strong performance in our last league game and I think just might be too good for the Hawks,” said Kirachin.

“However, they might also look to do some experiments in the game and move players around in different positions, so the hosts still have their chances here.”

After the Festival of Football, AFL Bulgaria will play out the final two rounds of their inaugural season, with one game in Sofia and one in Varna.

Should the season end in a draw between the two sides, they will play a fifth and final round at a neutral venue. Perhaps in Burgas?

More information on the Festival of Football in Bulgaria can be found on AFL Bulgaria’s Facebook event here.

All Festival of Football tournaments will be played in accordance with local government guidelines and restrictions.

Jackson Jones – AFL Europe

AFL Switzerland to make their Festival of Football debut on Saturday

The 2021 AFL Europe Festival of Football will see nearly 15 countries and up to 50 teams competing in local tournaments across Europe and all on the same day of Saturday, August 14th. Switzerland will participate in their debut Festival of Football this year, with four matches scheduled in Geneva.

Geneva Jets, Zurich Giants, Winterthur Lions and the reserves sides at Geneva and Basel Dragons will head to Centre Sportif de Vessy in Geneva to compete in the 2021 Festival of Football.

Unable to participate in last year’s event, this weekend will see the AFL Switzerland teams play in their first AFL Europe Festival of Football.

Geneva and Zurich will get things underway as the first of four matches played throughout the day, beginning at 12:30PM local time.

All games on Saturday will be played as 9-a-side and are mixed teams, similar to the AFL Switzerland league.

The 2021 competition commenced just one month ago, in which AFL Switzerland President, Effie Senti, shared her joy for the Swiss footy community to get the season going.

“It’s been awesome… We’ve had lots of fun and there’s been plenty of new people, which we’re very happy about,” said Senti.

“The idea of our reserves competition is to promote the sport to newcomers so that they first play in games that are less physical and a bit easier for them.

“So, to see a lot of new Swiss players join that competition this year has been great… The future of footy in Switzerland is looking bright.”

As first time participants in the Festival of Football, Senti spoke on the importance of feeling connected to the AFL Europe community as well as how welcoming all teams and players throughout Europe are.

“I think the Festival of Football is great for the team spirit within Europe,” said Senti.

“It brings us together as a community. In normal times, all teams and countries are able to connect with each other quite easily.

“For me, as a female player, I’ve been invited and welcomed into teams in Germany and Croatia… So all of us now playing footy on the same day will make us all feel connected again.”

Just recently, AFL Switzerland announced their men’s and women’s Swiss national team coaches.

Tommy Ross has been re-appointed as head coach of the Swiss Wolves, and AFL Women’s Brisbane Lions premiership coach, Craig Starcevich, was announced as head coach of the Swiss Heidis.

The two sides are currently training once a month in preparation for next year and in hope of some international matches or tournaments able to be played towards the back end of 2021.

“What we’ve actually been discussing lately is a Swiss national team vs. Swiss all-stars tournament,” said Senti.

“But if it’s possible to travel, we’d also like to invite over nearby countries such as Croatia, Germany or France for a tournament or to make a small competition.”

Aside from international matches, AFL Switzerland look forward to playing the remainder of their 2021 season and the grand final, which will be scheduled in September.

This is the league’s third year of running the mixed competition after beginning in 2019.

Good luck to all Swiss teams on Saturday.

All Festival of Football tournaments on the 14th of August will be played in accordance with local government guidelines and restrictions.

Jackson Jones – AFL Europe

Five-team tournament, national team selection and activities for the family at Festival of Football in Poland

The 2021 AFL Europe Festival of Football will see nearly 15 countries and up to 50 teams competing in local tournaments across Europe and all on the same day of Saturday, August 14th. This year, Poland will be joined by the Czech Republic as a total of five teams will head to the south-west of Poland to compete in a tournament in Nysa.

Fort Nysa FC, Warsaw Bisons, Warsaw Boars and the Wrocław Lions will welcome the Prague Dragons in what will be no ordinary tournament in Nysa, Poland for the AFL Europe Festival of Football this weekend.

Whilst the five teams will be competing for the title of ‘champion club’ in Czech Republic and Poland, all (Polish) players will be at their best, vying for a spot in Poland’s Australian Football national side.

That’s right, the games this weekend will also be a selection camp for the Polish Devils, as players will be playing for a chance to represent their country in upcoming international matches.

Przemysław Król, who is co-captain in Warsaw and has represented the Polish Devils in the past, shared his excitement about the opportunity to compete for a spot in the side.

“For the first time, we are having a proper selection process which has everyone really excited,” said Król.

“This is the first time players will have such high stakes to our game… We are getting watched and everyone will be thinking about how they can best compete for a position in the national side.”

Playing a key role in the selection of the national side is Devils head coach, and who regularly volunteers as an umpire, Roger Scott. Scott will be taking a break from officiating this weekend to have all eyes on selection and shared a little bit about the selection process that AFL Poland and the Polish Devils are thrilled to be doing for the first time.

“We want to see players putting into practice the footy skills that they’ve learned at training,” said Scott.

“Little things like timing their leads, or being able to spread and find space… that’s what we want to see. It’s not necessarily about getting the most touches or kicking the most goals.

“We’re also going to focus on sportsmanship, camaraderie and fair play. I’m really looking forward to it.”

As evident by the introduction of a national team selection process, AFL Poland have taken huge strides since last year’s Festival of Football in September.

The four-team tournament they held in Wrocław marked their first-ever all-Poland Australian Football tournament, as well as the debut of the Wrocław Lions and Fort Nysa Rugby Football Club.

Heading into this year’s tournament, all teams have enjoyed regular training and friendlies against each other, including travelling to Czech Republic in June to face the Prague Dragons.

The Dragons have also enjoyed getting back into competitive footy this year, and held round four of the 2021 Czech Cup just last weekend.

Beyond the on-field activities in Nysa this Saturday, AFL Poland are hoping to continue the efforts of Fort Nysa FC in showcasing the sport to the town through a number of off-field activities, as shared by Fort Nysa FC President (and coach), Mati Latawaski.

“We want to use this tournament to bring attention to the sport for families and kids, so they can see us playing footy but also through some of the activities we will run for the kids,” said Latawaski.

“Jumping castle, slides, dancing between the games… all the promotion we’ve been doing on radio, local TV and Facebook, we are hoping for around 300 people to attend.

“We don’t want it to be just a tournament. We want families to come and get involved in our club. We’ve started an Auskick program here in Nysa, we want to go into the schools and we want to start a women’s team.”

All of AFL Poland, including Vice President Geoff Puzzi, are extremely proud to see the growth of the sport in the past year, particularly through such challenging times, and are excited for the future that lies ahead for Australian Football in the country.

Towards the end of August, Fort Nysa will be looking to further increase the awareness of the sport in Poland by hosting a beach tournament made up of teams of five playing in games of strictly handballing.

The soon to be selected Polish Devils are also eager to get a few games in where possible and safe to do so.

“We have one more fixtured match between the Boars and Bisons in Warsaw, but after that our preference would be to (hopefully) travel,” said Puzzi.

“Last year at the Festival of Football we learned a lot about how to plan and have a safe tournament.

“We’ve been in chats with a couple of neighbouring countries and teams to plan an event later this year, so hopefully we can go ahead with some international friendlies then.”

Click here to check out Nysa’s tournament appearing on Polish radio on Radio Zet and Polskie Radio.

All Festival of Football tournaments on the 14th of August will be played in accordance with local government guidelines and restrictions.

Jackson Jones – AFL Europe

Teams in Russia ready to build on last year’s Festival of Football success at 2021 event

The 2021 AFL Europe Festival of Football will see nearly 15 countries and up to 50 teams competing in local tournaments across Europe and all on the same day of Saturday, August 14th. Check out the action in Russia with three teams competing in St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Cats look forward to again welcoming the Moscow Bears at the 2021 Festival of Football.

The Cats, who divide their players into two teams – Baltic Hawks and Northern Tigers – for the St. Petersburg footy league (SPAFL), will again do so this weekend to create a three-team tournament, replicating their successful round robin and grand final that they held in last year’s event.

The three teams have enjoyed going head-to-head on a number of occasions already this year.

Whilst the Hawks and Tigers have played their regular match-ups in the SPAFL, the resurgence of the Bears has allowed some inter-city trips and friendly matches, including the White Nights Cup in mid-June.

Founder of the St. Petersburg Cats, Slava Belov, said the three teams have enjoyed a healthy competition this year that he is excited to see follow into the Festival of Football on Saturday.

“So far, the St. Petersburg season has been very competitive between the Hawks and Tigers,” said Belov.

“In Moscow, the Bears have made great progress from last year and have a few new recruits. We [St. Petersburg Cats] played them twice this year, the first time was in Moscow where the Cats split into the Hawks and Tigers and they both lost.

“When we played them in St. Petersburg, it was the first time in a long time our players got to play as the St. Petersburg Cats.

“It was a really nice game to umpire with clean contests, and right up until the end it was anyone’s game.”

Just two goals split the Cats and Bears in their June clash, as the Cats held off the Bears for a 14-point victory.

All three teams in Russia are eager to go bigger and better at this weekend’s Festival of Football, and look forward to again joining in with the many countries and teams competing all on the same day.

“For a small grass roots community and emerging sport, times like this are a real test,” said Belov.

“But I think it’s [Festival of Football] a great way to unite the community and celebrate our sport, I’m sure it will be a great day of fun.”

On the other countries and teams that are participating on Saturday, Belov shared he was excited to see the Budapest Bats play their debut match after unfortunately missing out in last year’s event.

“I’m looking forward to see Hungary play their first game,” said Belov.

“I remember when we had our first conversations with them and shared how we started… It’s amazing to see that the ball is rolling and they have their first game this weekend.

“It’s great to see the Bulgarian competition up and running too… I’m just looking forward to see everyone playing this weekend.”

Last year’s Festival of Football tournament in Russia saw the Tigers defeat the Hawks in the grand final by just eleven-points.

The Bears, who won just one game on the day, will now be heading into the 2021 Festival of Football with a few more games under their belt and this time around, could see themselves into the grand final.

Post-tournament, the Hawks and Cats will resume their SPAFL season whilst all players in Russia hope to get some international friendlies played, where possible and safe to do so.

“No one knows what the travel restrictions will be like later this year but if there’s a chance to travel to Finland, we would like to play a game there,” said Belov.

“We have a great connection with AFL Poland too, so we might try and do something with them as well.”

All Festival of Football tournaments on the 14th of August will be played in accordance with local government guidelines and restrictions.

Jackson Jones – AFL Europe

Ireland return to the AFL Europe Festival of Football with up to 14 teams

The 2021 AFL Europe Festival of Football will see nearly 15 countries and up to 50 teams competing in local tournaments across Europe and all on the same day of Saturday, August 14th. Preview the two tournaments going ahead in Ireland that will feature a total of 14 teams.

Two months into the return of competitive footy in Ireland this year and we’ve already seen the completion of the three-week Leeside League in Cork, three rounds of the men’s and women’s premiership seasons and just last weekend, AFL Ireland held a women’s carnival and men’s national team (Irish Warriors) trial matches.

Now, the players in Ireland will return for their second AFL Europe Festival of Football with ten more teams than last year!

The women’s tournament with five teams and the men’s tournament with nine teams will be played on two pitches beside each other at the Terenure Rugby Football Club in Dublin.

The two tournaments will each feature group stages with the top teams progressing through to finals, determining the men’s and women’s champions of the Festival of Football in Ireland.

Head Coach of the Irish Warriors and AFL Ireland Men’s Competition Representative, Eoin O’Sullivan, said he was looking forward to seeing the players in Ireland once again involved in the event.

“I remember last year for us it was a bit on again, off again… In the end we were allowed to get some games played,” said O’Sullivan.

“We really enjoyed it last year. It was brilliant to be able to look up AFL Europe on your phone and see Austria were going well, or seeing the results up from Croatia.

“You really do feel like you’re a part of something bigger than the games going on in front of you. It’s not just Cork playing Dublin or Galway playing Belfast… This is spread out all over Europe.”

Competing in the women’s tournament in Dublin are league teams Cork Vikings, South Dublin Swans and Ulster Kookaburras, as well as the Dublin Garrisons and Galway Magpies.

The Kookaburras, who currently lead Ireland’s 2021 women’s season undefeated, are in impressive form and in round one defeated the women’s Leeside League winners, Cork Vikings, by four goals.

Appearances from the Dublin Garrison and Galway Magpies this Saturday could shake things up, while the Vikings will be seeking redemption against the Kooks.

Featuring in the men’s tournament will be the Belfast Redbacks, CIT Univesity, Dublin Demons, Galway Magpies, Kerry Suns, Leeside Lions, South Dublin Swans Red, South Dublin Swans White and UCC Bombers.

The 2021 men’s season in Ireland recently featured a top of the table clash between Leeside and South Dublin, that the Lions ended comfortably with a 45-point win.

Despite this, O’Sullivan strongly believes that all teams are in for a chance to win it all in the 9-a-side tournament this Saturday.

“This year in the men’s it’s been great to see the likes of Galway recruiting some massive numbers,” said O’Sullivan.

“With Dublin playing at home this weekend, I think they’ll be strong. But then again, anytime you’re up against Belfast, it’s a tough game.

“The Kerry Suns are still itching for their first win too, so I suspect they’ll be strong on Saturday as well.”

As Warriors head coach, O’Sullivan is eager to see how the men’s players fare off the back of the national team trial matches last weekend, but more so, is just happy to see all players in Ireland back playing Australian footy.

“We’ve had some close games in the Leeside League and our premiership seasons, there’s been some brilliant competition this year,” said O’Sullivan.

“To have the women’s and men’s teams all playing together on the same day and at the same venue for the Festival of Football, it’s going to be fantastic.”

The action in Ireland will continue after the Festival of Football, resuming their 2021 season as well as other tournaments and competitions.

“After the premiership season, the girls are looking at doing a ‘Super 9’s’ series and the men’s are looking at other competitions similar to that of the Leeside League,” said O’Sullivan.

“There’s a lot of different winter competitions we’re hoping will go ahead, including the university seasons.

“No one wants to go another six months without footy, so there’ll be games played as much as possible.”

All Festival of Football tournaments on the 14th of August will be played in accordance with local government guidelines and restrictions.

Jackson Jones – AFL Europe

AFL Europe Umpire Appreciation Month

AFL Europe are inviting all clubs in Europe to participate in Umpire Appreciation Month.

Umpire Appreciation Month will run throughout August in attempt to fit in with the many leagues and club fixtures in Europe.

The aim of the month is to encourage people to get involved in umpiring Australian Football at the community level, increase awareness and understanding around umpiring and the enjoyment of officiating matches, whilst acknowledging all past and present umpires in Europe.

AFL Europe are encouraging all clubs to join in the celebrations of Umpire Appreciation Month through several initiatives:

  • Inviting local umpires along to your training.
  • Appreciating umpires before each game by saying thanks and fist-bumping or handshaking where appropriate.
  • Forming a guard of honour and clapping the umpires off the field at the end of each game.

It would be fantastic to see clubs and leagues capturing these moments and sharing them to your social media accounts and using the Umpire Appreciation Month artwork that has been sent out to club presidents.

Earlier this year, nearly 150 umpires attended AFL Europe’s four-week Umpire Development Series, in partnership with anzuk Education, with an average of 125 umpires attending each session.

Over 100 of these umpires have been officially recognised by the AFL as an umpire and received umpire accreditation. These umpires have also received a free AFL Europe umpire shirt, courtesy of AFL Europe’s Apparel Partner, O’Neills Sportswear.

“Without umpires, we have no game. However, we are extremely fortunate to have a fantastic group of Australian Football umpires throughout Europe. Last year we had 125 umpires attend our Umpire Development Series and this year we had over 150 umpires in attendance for the same program,” said Managing Director of AFL Europe, Ryan Davey.

“We need to create a positive experience for our umpires, and I am thrilled that for the first time we will be holding an Umpire Appreciation Month in Europe. This will create an opportunity for our players, coaches and club administrations to show how much they appreciate the umpires who officiate their games each and every week.”

You do not need to have any prior knowledge or understanding of Australian Football to get involved with umpiring. Many of our current umpires came from other sports, had previously played the game, or simply saw the game in passing and took an interest.

Join the AFL Europe Umpire Community on Facebook here, and if you have any questions about getting involved email

Shifter reveals Ireland AFL All Stars side

AFL Talent Ambassador, Kevin “Shifter” Sheehan, recently joined the AFL Europe Podcast and revealed his ‘Ireland AFL All Stars’ side.

The team of 23 is comprised of Ireland’s best Australian Football players who made the move Down Under, from Gaelic to Australian Football, since the first Irishman signed into the league 40 years ago beginning the ‘Irish Experiment’.

The AFL has seen more than 60 Irishmen join the league since Kerry’s Sean Wight, who played 150 games for the Melbourne Demons. Derry’s Anton Tohill became the 27th and most recent Irishman to debut in the league, lining up for the Collingwood Magpies in round 19 of the 2021 season.

There are currently 14 Irishmen listed with an AFL side including Laois’ Zach Tuohy and Kerry’s Mark O’Connor, who both play for the Geelong Cats.

Sheehan’s squad is led by Brownlow medallist Jim Stynes as captain, and Tadhg Kennelly as vice-captain, who is the only Irishman to have ever won an AFL premiership.

“Stynes still holds the record for the most consecutive games (244 matches) in VFL/AFL history. He won the Brownlow Medal in 1991, was twice an All Australian and won Melbourne’s best and fairest on four occasions,” said Sheehan.

“He represented Victoria in State of Origin Football, as well as both Australia and Ireland in International Rules Football. His story is arguably one of the greatest success stories of a player in AFL history after initially being sent to Prahran in the VFA to learn the game!

“Tadhg Kennelly has been the only player in history to win an AFL Premiership Medal (Sydney Swans in 2005) and a senior All Ireland Championship Medal (Kerry in 2009). Kennelly also played for Ireland on 12 occasions in International Rules Football, winning Ireland’s best player award in 2011 as well as his 197 matches for the Swans.”

Listen to Sheehan reveal his ‘Ireland AFL All Stars’ side on episode 26 of the AFL Europe Podcast (Begins 31:23)



Colin O’Riordan (Tipperary/Sydney Swans)
26 games*

Sean Wight (Kerry/Melbourne Demons)
150 games

Mark O’Connor (Kerry/Geelong Cats)
62 games*

Conor McKenna (Tyrone/Essendon Bomvers)
79 games

Darragh Joyce (Kilkenny/St Kilda Saints)
8 games*

Marty Clarke (Down/Collingwood Magpies)
73 games


Jim Stynes (Dublin/Melbourne Demons)
264 games

Pearce Hanley (Mayo/Brisbane Lions & Gold Coast Suns)
169 games

Dermot McNicholl (Derry/St Kilda Saints)
3 games

Tadhg Kennelly (Kerry/Sydney Swans)
197 games

James Madden (Dublin/Brisbane Lions)
9 games*

Zach Tuohy (Laois/Carlton Blues & Geelong Cats)
223 games*


Ciaran Byrne (Louth/Carlton Blues)
22 games

Setanta O’hAilpin (Cork/Carlton Blues & Greater Western Sydnet Giants)
88 games

Colm Begley (Laois/Brisbane Lions & St Kilda Saints)
30 games

Caolan Mooney (Down & Collingwood Magpies)
6 games

Conor Nash (Meath & Hawthorn Hawks)
26 games*

Anthony Tohill (Derry/Melbourne Demons)
0 games


Conor Glass (Derry/Hawthorn Hawks)
21 games

Mark Keane (Cork/Collingwood Magpies)
5 games*

Ciaran Sheehan (Cork/Carlton Blues)
4 games

Tommy Walsh (Kerry/St Kilda Saints & Sydney Swans)
5 games

Michael Quinn (Longford/Essendon Bombers)
8 games


Captain: Jim Stynes

Vice-Captain: Tadhg Kennelly

*Currently playing in the AFL.



“It’s now been 40 years since Sean Wight became the first player from Ireland to sign with a VFL/AFL club when he joined Melbourne Football Club. He became a premier defender playing 150 matches as well as representing Victoria in State of Origin matches and playing for Australia in International Rules Football in 1987.

“Whilst Jimmy Stynes became a champion of the game, the likes of Sean Wight, Tadhg Kennelly, Pearce Hanley and Zach Tuohy as well as the emerging Mark O’Connor have become genuine stars of the AFL adding to the rich history of Irish/Australian football and cultural interaction.

Anthony Tohill is possibly the star who got away. Delisted by Melbourne in 1991 after playing in the final year of the VFL Under 19s (he also had fractured his leg), and with Melbourne having the prospect of having to pay his university fees the next year, Tohill was not re-contracted and so returned to Ireland becoming a superstar of the Gaelic game.

“Four times an All-Ireland All Star, he won an All-Ireland Championship with Derry, starred against Australia in three International Rules series including captaining his country and then coached Ireland successfully against Australia in 2005. Jimmy Stynes always said he was the one that got away. His son Anton is currently with Collingwood.

Marty Clarke whose career was cut short by illness (a blood disorder stopped him training at an elite level) now provides coaching and mentoring for prospects in Ireland before they come to Australia.

“Current AFL players in Colin O’Riordan and Mark Keane returned to Ireland at the end of the 2020 AFL season and played in significant wins in the All-Ireland Championships for their Counties with the full support of their AFL clubs.

“Former Essendon star Conor McKenna, who created great excitement with his dash and dare from defence for the Bombers in 70+ games, retired from the AFL in 2020 returning to Ireland and his County Tyrone at the end of the season and was another to have a positive impact in matches for his beloved County.

“Eighteen Irishwomen also played in the AFLW competition in 2020 including trailblazer County Mayo’s Cora Staunton with the GWS Giants, herself an eleven-time All Ireland All Star (a record in GAA history).

“When he debuted this year with the Brisbane Lions, James Madden from County Dublin became the 26th Irishman to play senior AFL football since the Irish experiment began 40 years ago with nine of those players playing more than 50 games.

“Lithuanian-born Kerryman, Deividas Uosis, became the 64th Irishman to join the AFL in that 40-year period when he signed with the Brisbane Lions for the 2021 season.

“Other currently AFL listed Irishmen making their way in the Jimmy Stynes pathway are Anton Tohill (Derry/Collingwood Magpies) who made his debut in round 19 of the 2021 season, Stefan Okunbur (Kerry/Geelong Cats), Cian McBride (Meath/Essendon Bombers), Callum Brown (Derry/GWS Giants), Luke Towey (Sligo/Gold Coast Suns), Barry O’Connor (Wexford/Sydney Swans), and Deividas Uosis (Kerry/Brisbane Lions) making it a total of 14 Irishmen in the AFL in 2021.

“Once the dust settles, post COVID-19, I am sure a handful of Irish men and women each year, will continue to follow in the not often travelled path established by Jimmy Stynes and Cora Staunton in search of unique success in a sport they would not have even dreamt of in their childhood!”

Jackson Jones – AFL Europe

Finland AFL hosting men’s and women’s tournament in Turku for Festival of Football

The 2021 AFL Europe Festival of Football will see nearly 15 countries and up to 50 teams competing in local tournaments across Europe and all on the same day of Saturday, August 14th. We’re excited to share that the players in Finland will take part in the Festival of Football for their second consecutive year.

Helsinki Heatseekers are eyeing their second Festival of Football victory at Finland AFL’s four-team tournament, combining men’s and women’s players to compete in Turku.

Coming up against the Heatseekers will be the city’s home side in the Dockers, along with the Waasa Wombats and Uusimma Kangaroos.

The 9-a-side round robin format will remain the same from last year, and will be played just a few weeks out from Finland AFL’s 2021 premiership deciding tournament in September.

Coach of the Turku Dockers, Stephen Phillips, is looking forward to again being involved in the Festival of Football as well as hosting Finland’s tournament in Turku.

“The thing that was really nice about last year’s event was knowing that there were so many other matches going on around Europe, all on the same day,” said Phillips.

“It was really nice to feel connected to the whole community, especially because it had been such an isolated time and there hadn’t been any of the international tournaments.

“For us, we’re quite a small but tight community so these ‘tournament days’, which we usually only do a few of a year, are great for getting everyone together.

“Once we finish the day, most people tend to stick around so we can celebrate together. They’re always calendar highlights for the footy community in Finland.”

According to Phillips, heading into the event as favourites will be the defending Finland AFL (FAFL) premiers and last year’s victors, Helsinki.

“The Heatseekers have been strong for a long time here in Finland,” said Phillips.

“We [Turku] beat Helsinki in the grand final a few years ago, but the Heatseekers are always the team to watch out for.

“They’ve got some of the best Finnish and international players playing for them, and won the FAFL premiership at last year’s Festival of Football event.”

This time around, the FAFL premiers will not be decided at the Festival of Football, as Finland have scheduled in a tournament day in September with all teams heading to Töölön Pallokenttä, Helsinki.

Another tournament day was scheduled to take place in July too, but having to undergo a last-minute venue relocation, on top of increased booking demand for venues after restrictions in Finland were lifted, unfortunately made it too difficult for the event to go ahead.

The tournament day last month was going to be a ‘mixed game day’ featuring new teams with both male and female players, as well as welcoming any newcomers to the sport.

Finland AFL hosted a similar event last year, which was a huge success for the Finnish footy community, introducing three new women’s players as well as two juniors to the sport.

AFL Europe are looking forward to seeing the players in Finland return to competitive action after a long break, as well as the four Finnish teams back competing in the Festival of Football for a second consecutive year.

The day will play as a great lead up to Finland AFL’s tournament on September 4th, which will ultimately decide the 2021 FAFL premiers.

All Festival of Football tournaments will be played in accordance with local government guidelines and restrictions.

Jackson Jones – AFL Europe