By Michael McCormick
The Australian Rules Football League of Ireland (ARFLI) is arguably the most successful league outside Australia, having produced players such as the late, great Jim Stynes, Tadhg Kennelly and more recently Pearce Hanley.
Heading the charge to retain their 2011 International Cup championship is ARFLI President, Paul Brogan.
Brogan, who initially became involved in coaching prior to the 2013 European Championships, was anointed President earlier this year and will be responsible for the Irish team in the International Cup.
“I will represent our league in Australia, and aid the rest of the management team in training and preparing the squad during the tournament,” stated Brogan.
As reigning premiers, the Irish will attempting a feat that has not previously been achieved in International Cup history.
“Our goals for the IC, are to retain both the mens and womens titles,” continued Brogan.
“We face an uphill task as no one has ever retained the trophy, but it is my belief that we have the quality in this squad to go all the way.”
Travelling with Brogan to Melbourne will be 14 players, including playing head coach, David Stynes. Stynes will replace Shaun McElhone who will not be attending the International Cup due to family reasons.
Once in Melbourne, the full twenty-eight man squad will resume training and preparations for the tournament.
“There are a lot of new faces notably among the Irish based contingent, none of whom have ever played in the IC before,” stated Brogan. “They can all draw from the experience of winning last years european championships however.”
Brogan is a big supporter of the International cup and the opportunities it provides for players all around the world.
“The IC is showcasing the worldwide talent, that exists in the sport, giving the opportunity for lads to aspire to play on the greatest stage of all, the MCG.”
The Irish squad was chosen via trials and on the back of scouting feedback in both Ireland and Australia.
The Australian based players play for clubs in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and will all be making the trip down for the two week tournament.
“Its tough for players as they are making a huge commitment,” stated Brogan.
“We have secured sponsorship for both the mens and ladies teams, but that will only cover a small portion of the costs involved. The players will be contributing the remainder themselves.”
The men’s and women’s squads will be landing in Melbourne on the 6th of August and will have regular training and recovery sessions in the St Kilda area where they will be staying throughout the tournament.
They will need to be on top of their game however if they are to defeat the might of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.
“They have a grassroots structure in place, so can develop players from a young age whereas we have to develop our lads from the skills they bring from sports like Gaelic Football and Rugby,” stated Brogan.
“History would dictate that PNG will be the main challengers for the title, considering that have been to every grand final since the inception of the tournament, however NZ had a very strong showing in nearly defeating the AIS Academy team in January.”
“We will certainly have to be at our best to beat these two sides.”
#warriorsweek #bansheesweek #IC14
Paul Brogan, ARFLI President