IC17 Tournament Preview – Irish Warriors

The AFL International Cup is nearly upon us. It has been a huge few months for the teams finalising their preparations for the two week tournament held in Melbourne. In the lead up to the tournament kicking off on Sunday 6th August we’ll be taking a look at the eight European teams making the journey and competing for the title of IC Champions. First up in our tournament previews is two-time IC winners, the Irish Warriors. 

History of the Warriors

The equal most decorated side in International Cup history will be back in 2017 and looking to add a 3rd IC title to their collection.

The Warriors first competed at International level in 2001 when the team won the Atlantic Alliance Cup. The side went into the inaugural IC in 2002 brimming with confidence and claimed the title on the hallowed turf of the MCG against PNG.

They have competed in every International Cup with their worst result a 4th place in 2005. They became the first team to win multiple International Cup titles when they again defeated PNG in the 2011 final.

Last IC and European Championships

The Warriors went into IC14 as defending champions and opened their campaign with a resounding 55 to 10 victory over Fiji. Their form continued with a 109-point win over European counterparts France before going 3 from 3 against a physical Nauru side out in Bendigo.

This saw them finish 2nd after the opening rounds and pitted them against a confident South Africa after they’d knocked off tournament heavyweights, PNG, the previous round. The Irish flexed their muscles and claimed an 8 goal to 4 victory moving them into their 3rd final at the MCG against arch-rivals, PNG.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for the Irish and despite leading at every change the PNG boys edged just ahead and held onto to a thrilling 3-point lead to claim their second IC.

The 2016 European Championships provided the chance at some redemption and gave the Warriors the opportunity to test out some newly unearthed talent. Going in as favourites they went through the rounds undefeated but fell short at the final hurdle with a determined Bulldogs outfit proving too strong at their home tournament losing their title for the first time in the tournaments history after winning the 2010 and 2013 editions.

Back to back major tournament losses will have the Warriors firing on all cylinders come August 6.

IC17 Fixtures

Round 1: vs PNG

Round 2: vs France

Round 3: vs GB Bulldogs

Round 4: vs New Zealand

Grand Finals: TBC

Player to Watch

Gavin Murray

The versatile big man can go anywhere on the ground and will play a key role. Having first played in 2011 for the South Dublin Swans, Gavin has played a season in Australia with the UTS Bats, a season over the winter with the Perpignan Tigers and a handful of games for the Wandsworth Demons in the AFL London league. It’s safe to say he can’t get enough football.

He’ll be a crucial member of the Warriors outfit as the mobile big man should be key up forward as well as pinch hitting in the ruck. His versatility and skills are second to none for a player for his size.

IC17 Crystal Ball

Anything less than another IC title will disappoint the Irish Warriors. They’re hungrier than ever after a narrow loss to PNG in 2014 and a defeat to the hands of GB at the European Champs.

The Irish will have to be at their very best from the word go with a tough first round match-up against PNG which will go a long way to determining their standing in the field. Win this and they’ll be favourites for the remainder, lose and they’ll need to rebound quickly against European counterparts France and GB in the following rounds. Their final pool game is against regular semi-finalists New Zealand and will be another huge encounter.

They may not be the strongest list on paper in the competition but they’ll certainly be the smartest. They know how to win big tournaments and control games at crucial times. They’ll have some very handy Australian based players who’ll add experience and polish.

This is a massive two weeks for Irish football and they’ll be doing all they can to prove why they’re the regarded as the footballing powerhouse outside of Australia.