Ireland wins first two matches in Australia’s International Rules Series
Aussie Rules players no match for GAA players
The International Rules Series between Ireland and Australia kicked off last Friday with Ireland winning the first of two Test matches emphatically in Melbourne.
For those unfamiliar with the Series, it comprises of two Test matches between amateur Irish Gaelic footballers and their professional counterparts in Aussie Rules.
The matches are played using a set of compromise rulescontaining elements of both codes although the hybrid game is much closer to Gaelic football than it is to Australian Rules with a round ball used rather than the oval version.
The Series has had a chequered past and divided opinion since it was first introduced on a formal basis back in 1984.
Many clashes in the past both in Ireland and Australia were marred by outbreaks of series violence on the field and the Series was almost wound up after a recurrence of similar incidents in 2006.
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However, it is also provides a unique and cherished opportunity for many of Ireland’s leading Gaelic footballers to represent their country on an international stage.Constricted by being exponents of their indigenous sports, this is considered a big honour by players.
It also gives amateur Gaelic players the chance to pit their wits against professionals which they have done very well with honours shared at 10 Test victories apiece to date. However, victory tends to go the way of the touring side which is usually better organised as a competing unit.
The biggest critics of International Rules feel that it is really irrelevant in that it doesn’t represent any sport per se. Also many believe that it puts Gaelic footballers in the shop window for the professional game in Australia which annually looks to attract young players from Ireland to the game Down Under.
During recessionary times the lure of a professional contract in Australia is particularly attractive to young talented Irish players whose employment and career prospects, while pursuing their dream as an amateur county Gaelic footballer at home, remain limited.
Another criticism of the hybrid game is that it hasn’t really gained any traction as a spectacle although running for nearly 30 years although attendances for Test games in Ireland have been excellent. In 2006, for example, a combined crowd of112,127 watched the two games in Ireland.
However, there is a view that the GAA would be better trying to promote its own games of hurling and footballabroad on a greater scale, particularly in the US and Australia where there are already thriving grass roots GAA communities.
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