By Michael McCormick
Luck plays an insignificant role when it comes to the Irish and AFL talent. There are already several Irish nationals showing their class in the AFL and VFL ranks and the International Cup in 2014 is another chance for this skilful team to show the world that Ireland are an Australian Football powerhouse.
Having hosted and triumphed at the European Championships in August, 2013, the Irish will be taking plenty of confidence in their ability to win on the big stage to Melbourne.
Needless to say the Irish are not strangers to International Cup glory either, holding the title of reigning premiers for both the men’s and women’s competitions, further proving themselves as the best in the world.
Despite their success, they remain humble and grateful for their opportunities.
Past President and current treasurer of the Australian Rules Football League Of Ireland, Ciaran O’hara, contends that this is because of the fierce competition coming from the rest of the world and in particular those teams close to home.
“[Great Britain] have been getting closer and closer to us and with the strength they’ve now got in the squad they’ve announced, I expect them to be major contenders.”
O’Hara, who provides logistical support to the coaches and management of both the men’s and women’s national teams revealed that the Irish teams really fire up once they hit Australian soil.
“Our Australian based players play for clubs in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, so they don’t get opportunities for collective training so the hard training for us usually begins once we arrive in Australia”
While the trip to Melbourne is being mostly self funded, both the men’s and women’s teams have been fortunate in securing sponsorship to assist with expenses.
Blu Marine Ltd, an internationally renowned ship fitting company, are supporting the Irish Warriors and the Irish Banshees are sponsored by major aircraft leasing company, Avolon. In addition several players have their own individual sponsors.
Financial support aside, the Irish team’s success has stemmed from the great leadership from different coaches and captains throughout their history.
The recent retirement of Head Coach Shaun McElhone has seen David Stynes named as Playing Head Coach of the Irish Warriors for the 2014 International Cup. His assistant, Lachlan Buszard is returning from the same post at the International Cup in 2011.
With several Irish players already living and playing football in Australia, around half the team will consist of players who won’t need to make the long trip from Ireland.
There are also a lot of new faces, with the 14 players selected to make the trip from Ireland having never played in an International Cup competition.
Of those players who are embarking on the quest to retain the International Cup for Ireland, O’Hara believes that a couple could catch the eye of the AFL world.
“Muiris Bartley who has played for both the European Legion and the World XVIII could impress or perhaps Ronan Geraghty who is on an Aussie Rules Scholarship at Sydney University and plays in the NEAFL,” stated O’Hara.
Although both the Irish Warrior and the Irish Banshees would love to retain their titles as the world’s best AFL nations outside Australia, they know that there’s a long road ahead.
“It would be nice to retain the title, but we know that the IC will be hard won if we are to do that.”
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