This weekend, four of Ireland’s premiership AFL teams will touch down in Dublin as the South Dublin Swans host ARFLI Rounds 5 and 6 on the 10th of June. This footy carnival marks the halfway point in the Aussie Rules Football League Ireland (ARFLI) 2017 season, and is a crucial day for teams the Leeside Lions, Belfast Redbacks, Galway Magpies, and the South Dublin Swans to secure their position on the ladder as they approach the season finals.
The Leeside Lions are heading to Dublin with confidence levels at an all-time high after winning last year’s premiership, and being undefeated so far in the current season. They also had an uncommon amount of pre season training this year as they had to prepare and compete in the AFL Europe Champion’s League earlier this year. The Lions earned their place in the Champion’s League semi finals before being knocked out by the Amsterdam Devils, who went on to claim runners-up of the tournament. Having had a taste of the Champions League and of the Premiership title, the Lions are determined to retain their undefeated status in order to give the tournament another shot next year. Several of the Lions players will be playing their hardest this weekend as they do their best to impress the Irish National team selectors as the 2017 Euro Cup approaches in Bordeaux.
Taking them on in the Dublin carnival this weekend is the Belfast Redbacks, who are chasing their third premiership this year, as well as the host team South Dublin Swans and the Galway Magpies. The Swans have one win under their belt this season with another two very narrow losses to their rivals, the Galway Magpies, and will be looking to get a victory over them this weekend. They’re also up against the reigning undefeated champions the Leeside Lions, who will be difficult to take down thanks to the strong influx of players from sister club the UCC Bombers in the last few years.
The Swans’ Coach, Marty Ryan, thinks his team has a strong chance at turning their season around at this Saturday’s games. “Numbers have been very good at training this season with a mixture of new and experienced players. We’ve a bunch of blokes heading to the International Cup this year and this has helped lift the level at training. We were disappointed to not have more points on the board after two narrow defeats to the Galway Magpies, but if the new guys can keep learning they’ll keep improving. We’ve important games on Saturday that we want to win, it’s our home carnival round so we need to up the effort to build momentum for the rest of the season.”
Despite their confidence and successfully undefeated season, the Lions are not underestimating their opponents. The first game of the day has them up against the South Dublin Swans, who they described as ‘formidable opponents’. “The Swans play a fast moving, strong hitting game and are always extremely difficult to overturn – especially so on home soil.”
Their next match against the ‘dangerous and skillful’ Magpies will be a shootout between the current top two teams on the ladder. The Lions are already predicting a tight score “There will be nothing more than a kick of a ball in the game come the final horn”, they said, “we will need to be on top of our game to ensure the unbeaten record is still standing come the Belfast Carnival.”
The Magpies have been lucky enough to put together a well rounded team this season with a strong mix of debutantes bringing in some new talent, and plenty of returning core players to add some leadership and experience to the pitch. Magpies Coach, Shaun Murphy, consistently tells his players to “keep it simple”, and this round will be no different. The Galway Magpies will be facing up with the South Dublin Swans and the Belfast Redbacks this Saturday, and they’re are certainly not underestimating either of their opponents. They’re also wary of the short 20 minute halves in each game, which means that falling behind early in the match can be almost impossible to come back from.
Best of luck to all four teams playing in the ARFLI tournament this weekend – check out our Around the Grounds next week to catch the final scores!