Match of the Round 6/8/16
ARFLI Grand Final – Leeside Lions v Belfast Redbacks
Mardyke Arena, Cork plays host to two of the fiercest rivals in Irish Aussie rules. The Leeside Lions take on the Belfast Redbacks in tomorrow’s Grand Final blockbuster with the Lions playing in their first Grand Final since 2011. The Redbacks are ‘big dance’ specialists, having qualified for their fifth consecutive ARFLI Grand Final.
This past year has been a big one for the ARFLI as a focus on reformation of the structures of the league took to the forefront. The establishment of ‘carnival footy’ has been the major structural change to the league. This saw carnivals held in the home city of each of the four competing league teams with Galway, Cork, Belfast and Dublin hosting carnivals throughout the season.
The Leeside Lions were the first side to lock in their place for the Grand Final having done so on the back of a ‘clean sweep’ – winning 9 from 9 games, a first in Irish League history. The Lions squad has been boosted this year by the large number of players from the local university team, the UCC Bombers. Being the first to qualify gives the Lions a much deserved home advantage which could prove pivotal to the outcome of this game.
The boys from Belfast will be a formidable opponent and could shatter the Lions hopes of a perfect season. They’ve qualified for their fifth straight Grand Final and the experience of playing on that first Saturday in August gives them a massive advantage if the game goes down to the wire. They also have the largest proportion of players in the Irish Warriors squad contesting the AFL Europe Championships the following week so that’s not to be underestimated.
Will the ARFLI be crowning a new champion on Saturday in the form of the youthful Leeside Lions or will it be the experienced and battle-hardened Belfast Redbacks. This one is set to be a ‘corker’ and isn’t to be missed. With the ball up set for 3pm get down to Mardyke Arena for the culmination of the 2016 ARFLI season.
Coach’s thoughts – Leeside Lions, Chris O’Brien
“The game will be won by playing our fast, precise style of footy. Players to watch are our Aussie gun, Matty Moore, and experienced players like Eoin Sull, Ian Sull and Cian Quigley that have been here before with the Lions and the national team on many occasions.
A younger crop of guys who have experience players with the Irish Warriors in various tournaments over the last couple of years, most notably, Muiris Bartley and Conor O’Halloran in IC14. We also have a good crop of youth and experience heading to London representing the national team in a couple of weeks’ time for the AFL Europe Championships.
The feeder club, UCC Bombers, have given the Lions a boost this year not only with players but an exuberance for the game and a sense of freshness to the squad that will hopefully reap benefits in the Grand Final against a tough Redbacks team.
We wouldn’t be where we are without the help of Tadgh from our sponsor, Blockagebusters, his generous contribution has allowed us to book training fields, help with insurance and physio bills, especially in the lead up to the final”