The first major AFL Europe tournament for 2019 will see five universities from Ireland and England battle it out on Saturday 2nd of February for the Fitzpatrick Cup. Premiers in the mens divison back in 2015 and 2016, Birmingham University are looking to take both the men’s and women’s Cup back to the Midlands.
Both sides have been in impressive form recently, with the men still unbeaten and both teams on top of their respective National Universities League competions.
The men’s side currently have a big percentage, showing their attacking prowess and they are confident of maintaining that 100% win record.
For the women, they have recorded impressive victory’s over Cambridge and the London Swans in recent times, while also giving the Nottingham Scorpions a good contest back in November as Birmingham were defeated at the Movember Cup.
This year the Fitzpatrick Cup is taking place in Oxford, England after it was previously held in Cork, Ireland for the last two years.
University of Birmingham Aussie Rules President Matt Darowski said having the Cup closer to home will help. “Even though we’re not playing at home, it will definitely help us as we can take our strongest team,” Darowski said.
With some of the distances teams have to travel, not all the players are available, but this year, Birmingham are looking particularly strong.
“In previous years some of our key players were unable to travel due to various reasons, but this year we’ve had to leave out some very good players!” Darowski said.
With four Great Britain players in their ranks, this Birmingham men’s side is full of experience and will be expecting Toby Webster, Sam Walon, James Williams and Ciaran Jeanes to guide their team through the cup.
Also having numerous players still in the men’s squad from their Cup winning teams in 2015 and 2016 will help this Birmingham team battle it out for the trophy.
This is the first time that Birmingham have had a women’s team in the competition, but there are still valuable players with experience in the form of GB players Meg Davies, Lila Wielemans and Ciara Duffy.
Up front, they will have key targets in Margot Roberson and Joely Crichard, and also have some young stars in Kate Franklin and Neave Dent.
There has been more focus this season on the tactical side of the game, with plenty of practise based on specific game situations, but Darowski said, “undoubtedly the togetherness and chemistry of this group is vital to our success.”
“Both the guys and girls really get behind each other and there’s a great atmosphere at the club because of it,” said Darowski.
All of this offers a chance for Birmingham to battle for both the men’s and women’s titles this year. Combine that with the form of both sides, and the close-knit nature of the group, Birmingham have high expectations this tournament.
With experienced third-year and GB international James Williams taking charge, there is no reason why Birmingham can’t be a factor at the pointy end of this years Fitzpatrick Cup.
Angus Boyle – AFL Europe