2017 AFL International Cup
3rd Place – Men’s Division 1
BY SIMEON SWAIN
It was always going to be two weeks of tough matches for an ambitious Irish Warriors side, who had their hearts set on taking out the 2017 International Cup Grand Final for the 3rd time. Group stage matches against highly ranked teams Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, and fellow European contenders the Great Britain Bulldogs and the French Coqs meant the Warriors would most likely need to remain undefeated if they were to be any hope of charging through to grand final day at the MCG.
The Warriors started strongly against the defending 2014 International Cup champions Papua New Guinea winning the physical affair in blustery conditions. Direct play and moving the ball on quickly from the contest were crucial tactics to keep the scoreboard in their favour.
The next game saw the Warriors travel to St Patricks College Ballarat for the schools round to play a fast improving French team. The Warriors were favoured to win and never surrendered control of the game. In the end however they were a little disappointed with the lack of points on the board as they knew a spot in the finals may come down to points differential, especially if they were to lose a game. St Patricks College is well known for nurturing future AFL stars and it was a great experience for both teams to see the strength of AFL at a junior level in Australia.
After the two wins against PNG and France the Warriors seemed incredibly focused and were playing with plenty of confidence. The third game against arch rivals the Great Britain Swans was highly emotional and physical, but it was the Warriors who kicked away in the second half to dominate what many thought would be a closer encounter.
The running rebound off halfback alongside clever midfield work and a strong forward presence in Padraig Lucey had proven to much to handle for the PNG, French and GB teams.
The Warriors next faced an imposing NZ team that was also sitting on three wins. This game would determine who would move on to the final to play the other semi-finals winners, PNG. It was end to end for most of the game and both teams played with an intense ferocity. The Warriors looked sure winners with 30 seconds to go and 2 points in front, but a last second goal from New Zealand put the Warriors heartbreakingly four points behind.
A resilient Warriors would bounce back to defeat a much hyped USA team despite having no substitutes due to numerous injuries. It was a strong finish for the disappointed Warriors who had only days before narrowly missed out on their shot to win a record 3rd International Cup title.
Although the 2017 tournament may of been the last for a few veteran players, the team will take confidence that they will again be strong at the next International Cup with a mix of experienced IC players and some new talent.
Round 1 – Irish Warriors 6.5.(41) defeated PNG 4.5.(30) at Royal Park
Round 2 – Irish Warriors 11.13.(79) defeated France 2.2.(14) at St Patrick’s College
Round 3 – Irish Warriors 9.16.(70) defeated Great Britain 8.7.(55) at Carnegie Oval
Round 4 – Irish Warriors 7.7.(49) defeated by New Zealand 8.5.(53) at Royal Park
Finals Round – Irish Warriors 7.6.(48) defeated USA 2.4.(16) at Royal Park
Padraig Lucey well and truly lead the Warrior’s goalkicking with a whopping 14 goals across the tournament. Other goalkickers included Declan Nannery, Patrick Brennan, Liam Burns, Michael Finn, Fiachra O’Dheasmhunaigh, Gavin Murray, William Gleeson, Robert McElhone, Ronan Cull, Muiris Bartley, David McElhone, Padraic O’Connell, Colin Lordan.
Best on Ground for IC17:
Padraig Lucey, Fiachra O’Dheasmhunaigh, Paul O’Halloran, Shane O’Sullivan, Gavin Murray, Liam Burns
World Team Selection:
Paul O’Halloran (Ruck)
Padraig Lucey (Full Forward)
Fiachra O’Dheasmhunaigh (Interchange)