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Tuesday, February 27, 2018


           So it seems like the more places I look in sports, the more it feels like league officials simply went into ‘settings’ on their video game and changed things up to make things more interesting. Football moving to an overtime format that allows both teams to touch the ball unless the first team scores a touchdown. Don’t get me started on the challenge system. Hockey going to a shootout after a five-minute four-on-four overtime—did you see in the Olympics they went to three-on-three? Wow.
            I’m definitely one of those old-school “you kids get off my lawn” kind of guys when it comes to things like this, but it’s probably helpful. It moves the game along, keeps things interesting, and lets the fans go home knowing there was a definite winner. It also reduces the chances of these marathon OT hockey playoff games of yesteryear, since it’s possible players are in 60-minute shape and not five-overtime shape.
            With that as a backdrop, I present AFL X, a new thing the league is rolling out to generate interest in the preseason, which is still about three weeks away.

            AFL X is played on a field about the size of a soccer pitch, with seven players on the field per team. If a player kicks a goal from behind that 40-meter line, it’s a 10-point goal accompanied by a brief pyrotechnics display. Whatevs. Two halves of ten minutes each, kick ins after any scoring shot, and no center bounce to let players catch their breath. Three players (for a total of 10 per side) are on the interchange bench and substitutions are unlimited.
            This is a fast-paced game and the players get a pretty good workout. They’re running the equivalent of a 5K during the run of play, but they sure seem wiped out when the half starts winding down. Fewer stoppages means fewer chances to catch your breath. Greater emphasis seems to be placed on passing and accuracy, as opposed to ball pressure and tackling.
            It sure seems like the guys in creative went crazy with the brainstorming session, and I’ll admit it was a challenge for me to watch the vids on YouTube. You know, the whole, “why can’t you guys just play the regular game” bit. Perhaps it’ll grow on me as the grand old game has. But the X looks like fun and it generates a little more buzz. Highly doubtful it’ll ever replace anything, but it does mean more people can play, thus it gets more people interested in rec leagues or wherever they play.
            You kids go on, have your fun. I’ll just sit here on my porch.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Houston Lonestars at Nationals

Highway signs in Houston help paint
the picture of what flooding looks like.
Hurricane Harvey dropped historic rainfall on the Texas coast in late August in the United States. Many locations reported at least 30 inches (76 cm) of rain. Nederland, east of Houston, recorded 64.58” of rainfall. Pearland, in Houston’s southern suburbs, a reported 9.92” fell in 90 minutes.

The rain definitely affected the Houston Lonestars footy club. No players were directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, but their families definitely were. Club members worked to help many others in the aftermath. The Lonestars also pitched in financially, with several members raising $10,000.

Their August 26th Texas Cup triangular with the Austin Crows and Dallas Magpies was canceled. They did get back into action on September 9 with a sweep of Baton Rouge (seven points) and Nashville (a 26-point win). The Lonestars also fell to Dallas and to the Los Angeles Dragons on September 23, and went 0-2 while hosting the Magpies and Crows on October 7.

So it was against this backdrop that the Houston Lonestars reported to San Diego recently for USAFL Nationals. The Division 1 side beat the Chicago Swans by five points, but fell to Portland Steelheads and the Quebec Saints to finish 1-2 in pool play. 

The Division 4 Lonestars also went 1-2 in San Diego, dropping decisions to the New York Magpies and Calgary Kangaroos, but ending on a positive note with an eight-point win over Ft. Lauderdale. 

On the women’s side, the Lonestars joined forces with the Dallas Magpies to form the Texas Heat. The team went 2-2 with wins over Columbus and Baltimore-Washington. 

At the championship level, the Denver Bulldogs women’s side were the six-time reigning D-1 premiers until losing to San Francisco last year. The Iron Maidens repeated as champions by winning the rematch in San Diego 2.2.14 to 1.0.6 for Denver.

The Austin Crows were D-1 Premiers in 2013 and in 2015-16, but it was Golden Gate who took their second premiership, and first since winning the D-2 title in 2005, beating Los Angeles 6.4.40 to 2.1.13.

Friday, August 4, 2017


Carrara Oval, Gold Coast Australia, in the
 southeastern corner of Queensland
            1992 was the 96th season of VFL/AFL footy. For round seven, Geelong traveled to Carrara Oval just south of Brisbane for a match against the Brisbane Lions. The Cats got off to a bit of a slow start on the season, losing their first two matches to Hawthorn and Melbourne despite scoring over 100 points. Their round six win over Fitzroy saw them kick 25 goals and score 175 points in a 98-point win over the Lions.

            Brisbane began play in the (then) VFL in 1986 and was in the process of losing $10 million total during the 90-91-92 AFL seasons. Poor on-field play as well as insufficient public transportation meant the team wasn’t drawing well. Rumors of relocation and/or mergers swirled around the team. Coming into round seven, they had won once and lost three, and managed a draw against a West Coast squad that had a decent year.

            This was a bit of the backdrop against which history would be made.

Gary Ablett, Sr. kicked nine goals in the Cats' big win over Brisbane.
 He played 248 games, mostly with Geelong, and in
four Grand Finals. He was named to the AFL Team of the Century in 1996.
            The Cats got off to a fast start by kicking seven goals and leading 46-14 at quarter time. The lead would stretch to 89 points at the half, as Brisbane kicked just two behinds. The Bears would kick five goals in the third term but Geelong had eight major scores to lead 152-50 at the last change. What’s phenomenal is the Cats scored 14 goals (fourteen!) in the final quarter to lead by 163 points when Bill Brownless kicked a behind at the very end of the game for a 239-75 win over the Lions. Gary Ablett the elder kicked nine goals, Paul Brown added six, and four others kicked three apiece. John Hutton pitched in eight of Brisbane’s 11 goals on the night.

            The 239 points became a league record for most points scored in a game by a team, beating out Fitzroy’s 238 in a win over Melbourne in 1979. So Brownless’ minor tally set the record, which still stands today.

            Now before you wonder about Geelong running up the score, they lit up the scoreboard regularly in 1992. They put up 210 the following week against Adelaide and 181 the next. Their percentage for the season was an astounding 145.64, which means the Cats scored that many points for every 100 scored by their opponents. Geelong had the same regular-season record (16-6) as Footscray and Collingwood, so by virtue of having the highest percentage they took the #1 seed going into the postseason. That meant they could lose once in the playoffs and not be eliminated, a privilege earned by the top two teams during the home-and-away season.

            Geelong would need that double chance because they would lose to West Coast in the semifinals. The Cats then beat Footscray the following week in the Preliminary Final, earning a Grand Final rematch with West Coast. The Eagles earned their first premiership with a strong second half, winning by 28 points.

            It’s pretty wild that they’d win the big trophy despite drawing against a poor Brisbane side early in the season. You just never know.

            As for Carrara Oval, officials poured a boatload of cash into renovations in 2009-11 and it’s now known as Metricon Stadium, where the Gold Coast Suns play home games.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Irish Warriors IC17 Preview

The 2017 International Cup is now just over a week away, and the Irish Warriors expect big things this year in Melbourne. Here is their team preview, assisted by Troy Thompson of World Footy News.

International Cup 2017
Ireland were runners up in the 2014 International Cup and will be looking to return to Australia and retake the title. 
History of Irish footy
The Australian Rules Football League of Ireland (ARFLI) was founded in 2000, but Aussie Rules actually came to Ireland in 1999 when squads in Belfast and Dublin recruited through the off season. The new Dublin Demons traveled to London in April, 2000 to take part in preseason matches with the British Australian Rules Football League (BARFL), and finished third out of 12 teams. The Demons then won a best-of-three series with the Belfast Redbacks to be crowned the first Irish footy premiers.
Michael Currane and Ciaran O hEeadhra both have their fingerprints all over Irish footy, as does Michael’s younger brother Brian, who is the Warriors head coach for IC17. Brian (along with Diarmuid Griffin) helped form the Leeside Lions over 15 years ago. Michael founded the European Australian Rules Football Council (EARFC) in early 2001 with the goal of developing the sport of Aussie Rules across the continent and strengthening ties between the already established leagues.
The local league, the Australian Rules Football League of Ireland (ARFLI), has become quite competitive and players of all skill levels come to play. Current premiers Leeside Lions are hoping to move to their new 75,000-seat stadium near Ballinderry Park, Mayfeild. Additionally, two university-level teams have begun play and are helping to make the game successful in the long-term.
The Warriors have competed in every International Cup, winning the inaugural event over Papua New Guinea in 2002, placing 4th in 2005 and 2008, and becoming the first team to win multiple International Cup titles when they again defeated PNG in the 2011 final. They’re the fourth-ranked team in the world in the most recent World Footy News rankings.
Both the Warriors and the Banshees on the women’s side will wear a special change strip in the competition honoring the memory of Irish and Melbourne champion Jim Stynes who died five years ago. Stynes was a great footballer who played 264 games for Melbourne and won the 1991 Brownlow Medal. He is the first (and so far only) overseas player to win the award. He also served as former Chairman of the Melbourne Football Club. Jim’s younger brother David has played on both Ireland’s IC-winning squads in the men’s division and will be involved again this time as part of the coaching staff.

Irish players in the AFL
Zach Tuohy was born in Portlaoise, Laois, Ireland and grew up playing Gaelic football with Mayo. He played from 2010-2016 for Carlton in the AFL and is in his first season wearing a Geelong Guernsey.
Pearce Hanley of Ballaghaderreen also played at the Gaelic level, and his AFL career stretches back to 2008 with the Brisbane Lions, with whom he played until 2016. Fellow Irishman Colm Begley was Hanley’s mentor in 2008 with the Lions. Hanley has now played in eight games with the Gold Coast Suns in 2017.
Tadhg Kennelly of Listowel (County Kerry) played from 2001-08 with Sydney and played in the 2005 and 2006 Grand Final with the Swans, winning in ’05.
Other Gaelic football alumni currently playing in the AFL include Conor McKenna (Essendon), Conor Glass (Hawthorn), Mark O'Connor (Geelong) and Ciaran Byrne (Carlton).

Run of Play and Fixture 
The skills required for Gaelic football translate well onto the footy pitch, but the down side is that pitch sizes are smaller and require them to play on smaller fields and to play with teams of nine, 12, or 14, so stamina could become an issue late in games.
The Warriors have placed second in their last two major tournaments. They went into IC14 as the top seed and defending champions and opened with a 45-point win over Fiji. They moved through to the finals series with wins over France and Nauru. After defeating South Africa in the semifinals, they met Papua New Guinea in the finals for the second consecutive IC, but PNG rallied in the fourth term to take the title.
They advanced to the finals series at the European Championships in Lisbon, Portugal in October, 2016 with pool play wins over France, Russia, and Jerusalem Peace Team Lions. The Warriors would fall in the Grand Final 53-39 in extra time to Croatia as the Knights would become European premiers. It should be noted that the team in Melbourne will be much stronger than in this tournament due to the inclusion of a number of Australian based players.
These two close tourney losses will surely serve as motivation for the Warriors as they prepare for IC17.

The Irish Warriors face a difficult draw in Division 1 as they are due to meet reigning premiers Papua New Guinea, plus France, Great Britain, and New Zealand, who have never placed outside the top 4 and were winners in 2005.
World Footy News has PNG ranked second, New Zealand 3rd, and Great Britain 8th. Back to back major tournament runner-up finishes will surely have this Warriors team hungry for competition in Melbourne, and they have a knack for playing in big games. Though the schedule does them no favors, expect them to be major players at IC17 as they aim for their third title.

The Irish Warriors
The men's team will be Captained by Antrim’s David McElhone and is Coached by Brian Currane, with tournament veteran Mick Finn acting as Player/Assistant Coach.

Player list
PlayerCounty Club
1 Muiris Bartley Cork Leeside Lions
2 Patrick Brennan Derry UTS Bats, Sydney*
3 Brendan Browne Kerry UTS Bats, Sydney*
4 Liam Burns Dublin South Dublin Swans
5 Ciaran Caffrey Dublin South Dublin Swans
6 Oisin Collins Cork Leeside Lions
7 Murtagh Condron Laois South Dublin Swans
8 Ronan Cull Dublin South Dublin Swans
9 Michael Finn Kerry Heidelberg, Melbourne*
10 Domhnall Fogarty Australia Powerhouse, Melbourne*
11 Dominic Joyce Galway Leeside Lions
12 Brendan Kelly Antrim Belfast Redbacks
13 Tim Kenneally Cork Powerhouse, Melbourne*
14 Darragh Leonard Cork Powerhouse, Melbourne
15 Colin Lordan Limerick Leeside Lions
16 Padraig Lucey Kerry Newtown, Geelong*
17 David McElhone Antrim Belfast Redbacks
18 Robert McElhone Antrim Yeppoon, Queensland*
19 Paul Murphy Cork Leeside Lions
20 Gavin Murray Wicklow South Dublin Swans
21 Barry Murray Australia Powerhouse, Melbourne*
22 Declan Nannery Westmeath Powerhouse, Melbourne*
23 Padraic O’ Connell Cork Leeside Lions
24 Fiachra O Deasmhunaigh Cork Powerhouse, Melbourne*
25 Paul O’ Halloran Carlow South Dublin Swans
26 Shane O’ Sullivan Kerry UCC Bombers
27 Mark Tubridy Clare Karratha, Western Australia*
28 Gerard Walls Antrim Belfast Redbacks
 * Australian club.

Players to watch
The tall, imposing figure of Irish Captain Mick Finn will amazingly partake in his fifth straight International Cup having been named in the team of the tournament on four previous occasions. He was named ‘Best and fairest’ in the 2008 tournament and backed that up with a Best on Ground performance in a four-goal display in the 2011 Grand Final. In 2014 he was again player of the tournament and named captain of the World Team. An outstanding contested mark and noted for kicking goals from distance, this time around Finn will be part of the coaching team as well as playing.
Padraig Lucey was another big performer at the IC14 tournament after featuring on the FOX 8 show The Recruit that year. Spent two seasons at Geelong and played well in the VFL but did not make it to the AFL competition. In 2017 has been playing in the ruck for Newtown (in the Geelong Football League). Previously played for the European Legion AFL team and the Irish basketball team at underage levels. Will again be a handful in the ruck and up forward for teams without comparable height.
Muiris Bartley has become a fixture in the Irish team whether it be in Europe or Australia. First coming to prominence in the World XVIII team when it was a mix of International and Multicultural players he has gone on to represent Ireland regularly. He has backgrounds in playing both GAA football and rugby. A confident centre half forward Bartley likes the physical stuff, is pacey and a brilliant finisher.

Head Coach – Brian Currane (Clare)
Asst Coaches – Michael Finn (Kerry), David Stynes (Dublin)
Team Trainer – Dean Ryan (Kildare)
Team Manager – Michael Currane (Clare)
Tour Manager – Paul Ryan
IRELAND SCHEDULE Rounds 1-4 times AEST and BST.
Sun 6/8 vs PNG (McAlister Oval) 11:15am/2:15am (BST)
Wed 9/8 vs France (St Patricks,Ballarat) 12:30pm/3:30am (BST)
Sat 12/8 vs Great Britain (Caulfield Park) 12pm/3am (BST)
Tues 15/8 vs New Zealand (Ransford Oval) 12:15pm/3:15am (BST)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Irish Banshees

The 2017 International Cup is about a week and a half away, and here is a preview of the Irish Banshees women's footy squad as they head to Melbourne for the tournament.

            Australian Rules Football has a brief history in Ireland.  However in the years following, the level of interest, participation, and quality of play have all taken leaps forward.

            The Australian Rules Football League of Ireland (ARFLI) was founded in 2000, but Aussie Rules actually came to Ireland in 1999 when squads in Belfast and Dublin recruited through the off season. The new Dublin Demons traveled to London in April, 2000 to take part in preseason matches with the British Australian Rules Football League (BARFL), and finished third out of 12 teams. The Demons then won a best-of-three series with the Belfast Redbacks to be crowned the first footy champion on the Emerald Isle.
            “The standard of the local league is quite competitive. It’s very welcoming and we have players of all standards involved from the social player right up to those aiming to play international footy,” Banshees coach Pat Leavy said. “In addition we have had two new University teams start up in 2016/17 and this is the area that we see a lot of new players coming from.”
            Leavy said he got his start in footy with the Midland Tigers in 2003, having been
introduced to the game by his brother Mark. Both men went on to represent Ireland in the 2013 Euro Cup, and since then Leavy hasg teamed up with Shaun Saurin and Brendan Kelly to develop the women’s game in Ireland. There are two women’s teams in Ireland—the Dublin Angels and the Ulster Kookaburras.
The Banshees

            Ireland’s strengths lie in the interchangeable skillset learned in Gaelic Football, skills that translate well onto the footy pitch. A potential disadvantage could be stamina because they don’t play a lot of 18-a-side footy due to the size of available fields. Most of their games are played nine, 12, or 14 to a side.
            The Banshees won the inaugural five-team International Cup in 2011 with an 18-point win over Papua New Guinea. In 2014 there were seven sides and the Banshees fell in the Grand Final to Canada Northern Lights. So not only has the interest level risen in Ireland, it’s also gone up on the world stage as eight women’s teams will compete for the 2017 International Cup.

Current run of play
            Ireland is rounding into form as they prepare for IC17. They are ranked fourth in the most recent World Footy News rankings. The Banshees won the 2016 Euro Cup in Lisbon, Portugal, and in May they traveled to the London Footy Carnival and opened with a 50-point win over the London All-Stars. A 22-1 win over the Canada Midnight Suns followed, and the Banshees fell by six points to the Great Britain Swans. Ireland took home the trophy based on having the highest percentage.
            “The players have been working very hard over the past 15 months in preparation for the tournament with many players receiving sponsored assistance from local personnel; trainers coupled with club and national team training sessions.  The London Footy Carnival against three quality teams also proved very beneficial for any new players on the team,” Leavy said.
            Rising star Onora Mulcahy agreed.
            “Even though Ireland won, it was a good wake up call to the level of physicality to expect in August from the non-European teams.”
            The Banshees team is made up of players who have competed in the local league as well as the London league and various country leagues in Australia.  The Australian based players comprise of a mix of girls who are taking a year out and have decided to “give it a go” while in Australia, as well as and those who have settled in Australia after falling in love with the lifestyle.
Who to watch for
            Laura Corrigan Duryea from Diamond Creek and the Melbourne Demons needs no introduction to anyone who followed the inaugural AFLW season, while Carol Breen and Gillian Behan are really impressing for UTS Shamrocks in the Sydney Premier League. Leavy is excited about having Marie Keating from IC11 back in the squad, while Carolann Cassidy has grown into a real leader for the team since playing at IC14. Of those making their International Cup debut, expect big things from Onóra Mulcahy and Clara Fitzpatrick. Duryea and Mulcahy are team co-captains.

Fixture and expectations
            The Banshees face the United States on Sunday, August 6, the European Crusaders on August 9, and Papua New Guinea on August 13. Tough matches await against the United States, an improving Papua New Guinea side, and against the European Crusaders. But expect Ireland to get out of pool play and compete for a premiership. They have competed in the first two IC Grand Final matches and they also add veteran experience and firepower with international players joining the side.


1   Claire Donnelly, Ulster Kookaburras

2   Amanda Maginn, Ulster Kookaburras

3   Rachel McGee, Ulster Kookaburras

4   Sarah O’Donovan, U.C.C. Crusaders

5   Laura Flannery, Dublin Angels

6   Emma Kelly, Ulster Kookaburras

7   Fiona Roarty, Ulster Kookaburras

8   Carolann Cassidy, Ulster Kookaburras

9   Olivia McCann, Ulster Kookaburras

10 Onora Mulcahy, Wandsworth Demons

11 Laura Corrigan Duryea, Diamond Creek / Melbourne Demons

12 Carol Breen, UTS Shamrocks

13 Niamh Hainsworth, UTS Shamrocks

14 Linda Connolly, Wandsworth Demons

15 Clara Fitzpatrick, Diamond Creek

16 Megan Creegan, Sydney University

17 Molly Cullen, Dublin Angels

18 Marie Keating, U.C.C. Crusaders

19 Aisling Gillespie, Ulster Kookaburras—leading goalkicker at European Championships

20 Rachel Fox, Perth Angels

21 Sandra Ryan, UTS Shamrocks

22 Colleen Quinn, Ulster Kookaburras

23 Gillian Behan, UTS Shamrocks

24 Emma Treanor, UTS Shamrocks

25 Maebh Moriarty, Diamond Creek

26 Leona Russell, Ulster Kookaburras

28 Aine Higgins, Dublin Angels

29 Deborah Geraghty, UTS Shamrocks

36 Christine McCutcheon, UTS Shamrocks

30 Bronagh Sheridan, Dublin Angels