Irish win International Rules but future is still in question
Victory dimmed by poor attendance figures, lackluster opponents
The International Rules series appears to have little or no future, but the Irish players may beg to differ after their massive record breaking 116-37 win over Australia at Croke Park on Saturday night.
The home team enjoyed a 22-point advantage from the opening match in Cavan and the result was never in any doubt once goals from Conor McManus and Jack McCaffrey helped them to a 27-8 first quarter lead.
The Cormac McAnallen Cup was never destined for anywhere other than Irish hands again, but the poor attendance – just over 28,000 paid into Croke Park – and the poor fare did little to suggest the Compromise Rules game will continue even though Ireland are due to travel to Australia next season.
The GAA did discuss the hybrid game’s future at a meeting in Dublin before the second test.
And Ireland team boss Paul Earley and his captain Michael Murphy were both adamant afterwards that this record win should be acknowledged on its own merits.
“I’m absolutely proud of the players. They are an incredible bunch of lads. They wanted to win, they wanted to win badly,” Earley said.
“They wanted to win each quarter and when the records were in sight they wanted to break the records as well, and that shows just how professional they are in everything except payment and true professionals will work to the end.
“When they were 20 points ahead they wanted to go 40 points ahead.”
Earley did admit that the indigenous Australian side offered little resistance to his team as they set about retaining their trophy.
“I’m not sure about the quality of the opposition. We can only work on our team and our team’s strengths. I think no matter what Australia would have out there today, they would have struggled to beat our lads,” Earley said.
“They were so focused and they played such high quality of football. We can’t control what the Australians do; we can only control what we do on the football pitch and how we prepare.
“I think the lads put in a phenomenal performance.”
Ireland and Donegal captain Murphy insisted after Saturday’s win and series victory that the crossover between Gaelic games and Aussie Rules can have a future.
“The game is still in its infancy. It is only 30 years old. Gaelic football and AFL are a lot older. Maybe there needs to be some minor revamps,” he said.
“We respected the series and we were delighted to take part. We take great honor in representing our country.
“We knew, as spectacle, last week and maybe even the last series that it needed a little bit more entertainment and I suppose that was really the drive in us over the four quarters to make it as good a spectacle in terms of skill. It is a highly skilled game.
“A number of years ago the ratio between skill and physicality was mainly towards physicality whereas now I think it is mainly pushed towards skill.”
McManus ended up with two goals on the night, with Paul Conroy, Ciaran Kilkenny and Paddy McBrearty also netting for the home team who 53-16 at halftime and were 78-25 at the end of the third quarter.
Earley wants to see the series continue in Australia next year and then beyond that.
“From what I’ve heard over the last few days they are positive about continuing, positive about putting out an All-Australian team next year. That’s up to them. You can only control what’s in your hand,” he said.
“I would be disappointed if it ended. If you go back to the original vision — neither sport has an international outlet and secondly to develop and maintain strong social, cultural and sporting links between the two countries.
“I think that is very important in the current era where a lot of our young people are out in Australia at the moment, they have been given employment by the Australian government.
“So we owe a bit of a debt of gratitude to the Australians for looking after a lot of our people, and a lot of them are GAA people as well.”
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