Looking to win the Fitzpatrick Cup again, UCC knows they will be facing tough competition with this years edition of the tournament being played on English soil.
Both the UCC men’s squad and the women’s squad, the UCC Crusaders, are aiming for the three-peat of Fitzpatrick Cup’s.
In recent times, the UCC men’s squad have been strong enough to field two teams, and this year will be no different with a UCC1 and UCC2 showing their strength in depth at the tournament.
“The preparation for this tournament has been coming along nicely with new coach Dean Johnson proving to be a breath of fresh air… With high numbers at each training, the standard hasn’t slipped since we got back to the grind this year,” James O’Callaghan said, the Club President of the UCC Australian Rules Football Club.
For the women’s side, they remain well balanced according to coach Marie Keating, a former Sydney University and New South Wales AFL player from Ireland.
Her knowledge and experience in the game will be a massive asset to the UCC Crusaders team.
“UCC Crusaders have had some very good players graduate and move away from Cork over the last 2 years so they will be a big loss but we are lucky that the vast majority of players we have this year have managed to stay relatively injury free and available to travel to the Fitzpatrick Cup,” Marie said.
The women’s team have dominated in their competition since the inaugural women’s tournament in 2016, and they will look to continue that form this year. However, they know that playing in Oxford offers a different challenge, with Marie saying they are expecting the English universities, in particular, to be stronger this year with home advantage.
Build up for the women’s team has been going well for many players, thanks to the first edition of the AFL Ireland Women’s Premiership. Cork reached the final, which meant giving some valuable game time and match day exposure to a few of the newer faces within the squad.
As a whole, the women’s side is a balanced line-up. “There is great strength down the spine of the team, with established players like co-captains Siobhan O’Donnell and Claire Stephenson, as well as Mary Hurley, having played fantastically in the AFL Ireland Women’s Premiership”, Marie said.
The men also have a strong team that will consider themselves as favourites to win the Cup again but will face stiff opposition in English conditions.
When asked about their chances this weekend, James said, “Having won the last two tournaments on our own grounds, both teams are eyeing up Oxford as an opportunity to show that we can perform regardless of where we are in the world.”
As is the case with reigning premiers though, there is normally a target on their backs. “I feel this year’s tournament could be our most competitive one yet for both teams, as the standard always seems to be rising,” James said.
Everyone wants to beat the best so both men’s and women’s squads will have to be at their best once again against impressive competition, but both teams will back themselves in defending their titles in what is sure to be an exciting Fitzpatrick Cup.
Angus Boyle – AFL Europe