20 years in the making, US tour of Ireland set for Sunday kick-off
Ireland is ready to take their Euro Cup 2018 preparations up a gear this weekend with a blockbuster cross-Atlantic clash between the Warriors and the travelling USA Revolution on Sunday set to kick-start a historic tour that has been nearly 20 years in the making.
A travelling party of over 40 American players, coaches, staff and supporters will touch down in Dublin as the US seek to test themselves against one of the world’s best international outfits, and while the Warriors will be sure to play welcoming hosts off the field, there will be plenty for the men in green to play for on the field as coach Brian Currane casts his eye over his prospective Euro Cup side.
Currane has spent the last nine months “watching every Sherrin that was being kicked up and down the country” to gauge the talent he will have at his disposal as Ireland gear up for a huge period of International Australian Football, encompassing two 9-a-side Euro Cups in 2018 & 2019 and next Octobers 18-a-side European Championships in London, before culminating with the 2020 International Cup in Melbourne.
He says that these fixtures against the USA will not only offer a significant on-field test for the Warriors but also provide “a huge boost” to the Irish preparations from a selection perspective ahead of these major tournaments.
“The two games against the Revolution fitted in perfectly with my plans for the year as recently I named a Warriors Development Squad of over 50 players as the starting point on our next 3 Year International Cycle culminating in the 2020 International Cup,” Currane said.
“Euro Cup is rolling around fast, and even more so as it is hosted here in Cork this time around, so all players on the Development Squad have been monitored from end last season and will continue to be monitored throughout all games this season both here and in the UK.
Both Brian Currane and brother Michael, now Warriors Team-Manager, were part of the side which faced the US in the first ever International Australian Football competition back in 2001, with the Irish edging past the Americans on their way to securing the Atlantic Alliance Cup in London.
Michael Currane says that ever since that initial encounter in 2001, the intention has been to develop a regular fixture to bring the two nations together, and it has “taken until now for that to happen.”
“For as long as Ireland has been playing International Footy there have been great battles on the field with the USA, and from those early pioneering days of international competition, a great friendship and comradery has been forged between the two teams,” Currane said.
“Every battle on the field between the two countries is fierce and physical but always played in the best of spirits. We are both very similar in that it means a huge amount to both sets of players to represent their country and wear that national jersey and they both do so with a huge amount of pride and passion,”
“It’s a huge undertaking to get a tour like this off the ground so obviously, we want it to be a memorable experience for everyone in the Revolution group as I have no doubt it will be.”
Current US coach Tom Ellis was one of those to play on the opposing side to the Currane brother’sway back in 2001 and shares their enthusiasm for the prospect of the upcoming tour acting as a starting point for more regular match-ups in the future.
“I want the USA to play as many games as we can with as many players as we can develop,” Ellis said.
“We had over 70 players trying out for a spot in the last cup and we wanted to reward those that didn’t make it with something special and this trip was the reward,
“It brings a lot of excitement to the competition overall to play a game representing your country.”
As for the current state of Australian Football across the Atlantic, Ellis says that the rate of growth in recent years provides a great reason for excitement, with an “outstanding” nationals event in San Diego last year highlighting the trajectory of footy in the States.
“The game in The USA has been doing well. We have over 30 teams and women have made a great impact. The umpires continue to grow with experience and the management of the regional and national tournaments continues to get us on some great venues.”
Sunday’s match between the two nations at the Civil Service GAA Ground in Dublin will be the first of a two-game series with the second game held August 4th, with the Americans schedule also including a midweek match against the ARFLI leading Belfast Redbacks on Tuesday.
Riley Brettell – AFL Europe
USA Revolution Tour of Ireland
Game 1: Sunday 29th July v Irish Warriors
Game 2: Tuesday 31st July v BelfastRedbacks
Game 3: Saturday 4th August v Irish Warriors