ARFLI Grand Final Preview – Belfast Redbacks v Galway Magpies

The Grand Final spotlight shifts over to the Emerald Isle this weekend as the two dominant sides of the ARFLI Season face off for the silverware, with the hosting Belfast Redbacks looking to see off the Galway Magpies on the big stage to complete a perfect season.

With Belfast having already cemented their place in the final a week prior, it was the Magpies who booked the final ticket in last Saturday’s semi-final with a gutsy 25-point win over the reigning premiers from Leeside in Dublin, producing the sort of performance that will see them take it right up to the high flying Redbacks if they can maintain the rage in consecutive weeks.

The two sides are no strangers to each other having already faced off on four occasions throughout the regular season, and while the Redbacks took the chocolates in each of those match-ups, club co-captain Ben McDevitt says his side will not be taking anything for granted at the fifth time of asking.


The Redbacks continued their hot form by toppling the visiting USA Revolution recently. Photo; Bob Given Photography


“The Pies always give us a tough game no matter on the occasion, and can probably consider themselves unlucky not to have picked up points against us this year. We have been involved in a few close games but thankfully we have pulled together and secured the victory,” McDevitt said.

“Both teams know each other pretty well – maybe too well – with both teams happy to play the game on the edge.”

McDevitt says that the Redbacks have benefited greatly from a decision in the offseason which saw the club make a concerted effort to forge a more positive environment, with the banning of on-field negativity and blaming of any external factors helping spur the side to an undefeated year so far.

While that record will count for nothing if the side can’t overcome the Magpies on Saturday, the Redbacks have arguably never been better placed for a tilt at a premiership, with the current side boasting a full team of Irish Warriors past or present along with a strong Aussie contingent.

The Magpies are confident that they can cause a boilover and atone for their 2014 Grand Final defeat.

Standing in the way of a third Redbacks flag in six years are the men from Galway, who sat second on the table after the regular season and lifted themselves over the highly fancied Leeside Lions in last weeks Semi-Final.

Galway President, Padraig Brady, says the club is looking forward to getting the chance to atone for their heartbreaking defeat in the 2014 Grand Final against the same opponents, with the feeling in the camp overwhelmingly positive.

“2018 has been a year of transition for the Magpies, having recruited a few new players who have reenergized the group, and although we still have the smallest squad in the league, we have proven we are well able to compete with the best in the league,” Brady said.

“Our form at the beginning of the year was quite poor but we have managed to turn that around and take some major scalps along the way. The 110 point victory over the Dublin in the last ladder game showed out intent,

“We are hitting our best form at the business end of the season… We are however under no illusions with regards to the task at hand. We are aware we are playing the Belfast Redbacks in their own back garden, a team who have gone through the season undefeated and are notoriously difficult to beat at home.”

It will be an upset if the Magpies are to climb the mountain on Saturday, but they need only to look across to the UK mainland for inspiration from the Edinburgh Bloods & Wandsworth Demon’s in recent weeks, who have laid down the template for pulling off giant-killing jobs on the big day.






Riley Brettell – AFL Europe