Overjoyed by events down under

THANKFULLY, the first test in the International Rules Series between Ireland and Australia worked a treat.

In fact, from a performance and result viewpoint it couldn’t have been better. I really enjoyed the game which was played at a furious pace and in a very good spirit. A crowd of 35,000 was only a few thousand short of capacity, in the soon-to-be-redeveloped Subiaco Oval in the lovely city of Perth. With only one point separating the sides, it is now well teed up for the decisive game in the Telstra Dome in Melbourne on Friday. Incidentally, the Telstra Dome is to be re-named the Etihad Dome next year, as the airline, one of the sponsors of the All-Ireland hurling championship have won the naming rights for the Victorian stadium.

Firstly, hats off to the AFL. They went out of their way to make their visitors welcome and get across the message that the historic links between Ireland and Australia needed to be preserved and strengthened through the series.

On Wednesday night they hosted a dinner for the entire parties of both countries. They arranged that on each table there was a mixture of Irish and Australian players and officials and each of the speakers including Andrew Demetriou, Nathan Buckley, Brent Harvey, Nickey Brennan, Sean Cavanagh and Anthony Tohill gave the same message.

It meant a lot to play for one’s country, the game should be played in the right spirit, and the historical links from the time the Irish colonists were transported to the Southern Hemisphere, put an onus on everybody to help preserve and grow that wonderful bond between the two countries.

One of the great things about the International Rules is that it gives players that aren’t often in the limelight an opportunity to show their skills. It was the same on Friday last, with the likes of Leighton Glynn, Ciaran Lyng, John Miskella and Tom Parsons all showing their prowess. They may not be All Stars but they are well worthy of the Irish team. Indeed, the International Rules team is far more representative than the All Stars side ever is.

Both teams are selected on performances during the year and while, not every Gaelic player is not suited to the compromise game, the International Rules is representative of a greater number of counties. In other words, if a player is good enough he can be selected for Ireland but, if his county doesn’t reach the All-Ireland Final, his chances of making the All Star team is greatly diminished.

The new rules worked fairly effectively on Friday. Particularly relevant was the banning of slinging a player to the ground.

It was also interesting to speak to the South African umpire whose job it was to review incidents after the game. He is vastly experienced in several international games including rugby and cricket and he said the game was played in a good spirit and was very complimentary towards the two referees, Pat McEneaney and Steve McBurney.

Some of the best entertainment came after the game itself. Nobody but nobody goes onto a pitch in Australia when games are over. In fact, anyone that does can be arrested, fined up to $10,000 (5,000) and receive a criminal record. But, the young Irish in the crowd didn’t heed this. Just after the game an Irish fan, ran on to the pitch and was chased down by the stewards and brusquely removed from the Stadium. Then another young Irish fan did likewise. He too was chased down. But then another and another and another joined in the merriment. The stewards became exhausted and couldn’t chase any longer. The exuberant Irish fans did cartwheels and press-ups on the famous turf before the authorities did the sensible thing and turned out the lights. That ended the spectacle and the Irish went off to celebrate.

The big question now is what will happen Friday and will the game be played in the same spirit? The whole future of the series could rest on it.


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