AFL Europe Championships Team Preview – Ireland Warriors
Every three years the AFL Europe Championships take place for teams to assert their dominance and claim bragging rights against their European counterparts as well as gain valuable 18-a-side match practice in the lead up to the International Cup the following year.
In the lead up to this year’s AFL Europe Championships in London we’ll be focusing on each team and previewing their chances of taking out the top prize.
Next up to be previewed is the Ireland Warriors. The boys from Ireland are always up around top of the placings and will be looking to further assert the dominance in London.
What’s happened since International Cup 2014?
Since the International Cup in 2014 the Irish Warriors have been consistent participants in the yearly Euro Cup. They finished third in the 2014 and were beaten by Croatia after the siren in Umag in the third-place playoff. There has been a high volume of player turnover in recent years for the Warriors.
The positive for the Irish is that their Draft Cup competition unearthed a lot of new talent and the squad will contain a number of players making their Warriors debuts.
The management for the Irish Warriors has undergone significant changes in recent years. The team at IC14 was managed by Paul Brogan and coached by Shaun McElhone, who led the team to wins at Euro Cup 2011 and 2012 as well as retaining the AFL Europe Championships in Dublin 2013. Shaun’s success was unable to travel Australia for IC14 but had the side coached under the watchful eyes of David Stynes and Lachlan Buzsard.
Since the success of the recent era a new coaching and management team has been put in place and it has evolved over the last few years. They’ll be looking to go one step better than previous tournaments and come away with the win at the Champs come August.
Who’s in for the AFL Europe Championships in 2016?
The joint coaching team of Brian Currane and Ciaran O’Hara, both of whom have worked with the team since 2014 and began the process whilst IC14 was underway.
Brian was one of the best forwards in Ireland for many years and was a member of the winning International Cup side from 2002. He was also involved in an administrative capacity for the AFL Europe Championships in 2010.
Ciaran has for many years been involved in the management of the National team, having travelled as an assistant to the International Cup in 2002. In the 2008 and 2011 instalments of the tournament he also managed the team. He coached Croatia at the last AFL Europe Championships in Dublin and has a wealth of experience coaching Irish club teams.
Supporting the coaches is a number of people, most notably, former captain Cian Quigley as team liaison.
The team itself is coming together well, blending a mix of youth and experience. With multiple International medal winners like David McElhone, Eoin O’Suilebhain and Gerard Walls mixing with some really exciting prospects like Stuart McKeating, Paul Murphy and Luke Hickey this Warriors side looks pretty formidable. Add to this some full format experience from the UK Leagues and the Irish could be hard to stop.
The side is made up of 9 players from both the Belfast Redbacks and Leeside Lions, 2 from the Galway Magpies, 2 from South Dublin Swans and a number of player representing UK Clubs such as the Manchester Mozzies, North London Lions, Wandsworth Demons and Wimbledon Hawks.
Due to very busy domestic league schedules it has been difficult for the Warriors to meet for training camps. Their players will be in form with regular carnivals and premiership games throughout the year keeping them fit and with good touch.
The Warriors will relish the opportunity to run out onto a full sized oval seeing as they don’t usually get the opportunity. They’ll look to add width and pace to their game which is something Irish players are traditionally very good at. With a high calibre of football player, the Irish will always a tough opponent and will be very difficult beat. Their Achilles heel is always their inability to train as a team before big tournaments which will put pressure on them early in the Champs to gel as quick as possible.
Who has the X-Factor?
The ruck duo of Gavin Murray and Dominic Joyce 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.
Coaches thoughts – Brian Currane?
“We’d expect to have a fair crack at defending our title, but we know it will be difficult, GB were very good in 2013 and have improved since and the home advantage for them could be the percentages they need to take out their first European Championship.”
Team List (includes emergencies)
- Muiris Bartley (UCC & Leeside Lions)
- Sean Paul Henry (Belfast Redbacks)
- Luke Hickey (UCC & Leeside Lions)
- Brendan Kelly (Belfast Redbacks)
- Stiofan Mac Finn (Wimbledon Hawks)
- Tom McKenna (Belfast Redbacks)
- Paul Murphy (UCC & Leeside Lions)
- Conor O’Halloran (Leeside Lions)
- Eoin O’Suilleabhain (Leeside Lions)
- Tom Stack (Manchester Mozzies)
- Gerard Walls (Belfast Redbacks)
- 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 O’Brien (Wandsworth Demons)
- Eoin O’Murchu (Wandsworth Demons)
- 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 O’Brien (Wandsworth Demons)
- Padraic O’Connell (Leeside Lions)
- Coilin O’Lordain (Leeside Lions)
- Rory O’Donnell (UCC & Leeside Lions)
- Alan Tobin (Wandsworth Demons)