As one of the original driving forces for AFL in Ireland 20 years ago, Michael Currane has well and truly been there since the beginning.
From playing, to managing, to coaching, Mike is a major factor to the success of AFL Ireland and is the epitome of what AFL Europe stands for on and off the pitch.
Inspired by Irish AFL player and Brownlow winner Jim Stynes, Mike regularly watched highlights of the great Australian game growing up and wanted to be a part of it all.
“I absolutely loved the game from the first moment I saw it. There was a highlights package on our Irish Language TV Station, and I was glued to it every week, watching legends of the game including our own Jimmy Stynes. I was always attracted to the more physical side and the skills side of the game.”
This led to Mike playing footy with his siblings, where he and his brother Brian would drag their sisters outside, find some fencing posts, set them up as goal posts and kick the footy around, taking big marks and kicking goals together.
Mike says, “Never in our wildest dreams during those kickabouts would we have thought that any of us would have the chance to go on and play.” Not only did they play, but all four brothers and sisters went on to win AFL Ireland Premierships and three went on to represent their country.
Mike joined some Aussies and had his first Australian football training session in Phoenix Park, where he started to play the game. Wanting to grow the game, Mike was a founder of the Dublin Demons. After building the game up in their area, the club were able to combine with the Belfast Redbacks for the first ever official game on Irish soil 20 years ago.
Mike helped build an Irish championship tournament not long after which gained attention, before laying the building blocks of AFL Ireland which today is one of the most flourishing leagues in all of AFL Europe.
When younger, Mike was an extremely successful player, winning three premierships with the Dublin Demons and representing Ireland in the International Cup in Melbourne twice, where his Irish side took out the tournament in 2002.
As well as being an on-field success, Mike was able to help grow the game in Ireland and even across Europe, founding the EARFC (European Australian Rules Football Council). This was able to kick start a huge growth of the game across the continent and formed the foundation of what we now know as AFL Europe.
After playing and managing large parts of the Irish league for many years, Mike took another huge step, managing the Irish men’s team at the 2017 International Cup, where the idea of AFL Ireland Women’s also started to take shape.
With the vision of having a local domestic league for Irish women to compete in regularly, Mike along with Olivia McCann grew the women’s league massively within 18 months. Off the back of this, the Banshees national team have gone on to win recent Euro Cup events as well of having plenty of Irish representation competing professionally in the AFLW.
Currently in his third year of being a large part of the AFL Europe Commission, Mike is also the head of AFL Ireland Women’s, the head Coach of the Ireland National Teams (Irish Banshees & Irish Universities) and the Ireland Ambassador with Crosscoders.
His countless efforts to help the growth of the game is a major reason to why Ireland is a major AFL hub worldwide and his work helps AFL Europe immensely.
Picking up so many jobs at once and being so selfless with volunteering his time in so many areas, Mike urges others to do the same, “I have always taken a very active role off the pitch even when playing. I think it’s very important for players to do so. The success of clubs and leagues across Europe and the global footy community is hugely dependent on volunteers. More often than not that means players doubling up with admin roles.”
From wanting his own opportunity to play the game and having many dreams come true, to being so selfless with efforts to involve everyone in the game, Mike has done some amazing work over many years and will continue to do so. Without him the AFL Europe community wouldn’t be where it is thriving today, and he expects the the international growth of the game to continue to succeed.
“I’m very excited to see where AFL in Europe goes over the next few years. Footy has continued to grow across the continent, it’s getting bigger year on year. Aussie Rules is growing across all countries and still new clubs and leagues are being formed. There has never been better support and governance structures in place with AFL Europe – amazing people are doing amazing work across the continent.”
Liam McAllion – AFL Europe