GAA calls time out on International Rules, Wild Geese game

Pearce Hanley is talked by Jobe Watson during the International Rules Series in Perth in 2014

Pearce Hanley is talked by Jobe Watson during the International Rules Series in Perth in 2014

There will no international rules series or Wild Geese Trophy hurling match in 2019, the Irish Echo has learned.

Since the last international rules series in 2017, there had been discussions about bringing the series or at least one of the test matches to America as the AFL looks to promote their game stateside.

But the Irish Echo understands that the GAA has reservations about taking the hybrid code to the US nominating the scale and style of the chosen venues.

Alan Milton, GAA Director of Communications, told The Irish Echo: "The GAA continues to work with the AFL on a five year plan for the International Rules Series. A number of issues, primarily relating to venues, meant it was not possible to stage the series this year.”

The AFL has made it clear that the decision to postpone the series was not theirs.

An AFL spokesperson told The Irish Echo: "The GAA has communicated to the AFL they do not plan to play an International Rules Series this year. We are yet to have a detailed discussion as to what the result of the GAA’s decision means for the AFL and its players."

The last international rules series took place in 2017 when GAA stars travelled to Australia but lost a tough series to their hosts. Australia took the first test in Adelaide by ten points and although the second test in Perth was closer, it still went to the home team, this time by three.

Action from the Wild Geese Trophy challenge match between Kilkenny and Galway in Sydney last November.

Action from the Wild Geese Trophy challenge match between Kilkenny and Galway in Sydney last November.

The series has been held every two years on average since its revival in 1998 but there was talk of not revisiting it after a bruising series in 2006 although the series returned in 2008 regardless.

Since that time, the number of Irish players - both male and female - playing Aussie Rules has soared. This weekend, seven Irish players will line out for their AFL clubs: Conor Nash and Conor Glass (Hawthorn), Conor McKenna (Essendon), Colin O’Riordan (Sydney Swans), Mark O’Connor and Zach Tuohy (Geelong) and Pearce Hanley (God Coast Suns).

Meanwhile the apparent financial failure of the Wild Geese Trophy event in Sydney last November appears to have influenced the decision to put that concept on the back burner.

The inaugural Wild Geese trophy match took place at Spotless Stadium, Sydney last November as part of the Sydney irish Festival. Then reigning All-Ireland champions Galway came back from fourteen points down to draw the match with league winners Kilkenny and claimed victory in a 65 yard free-taking contest.

The Wild Geese trophy match was enjoyed by fans in Sydney but the hurling was supposed to be a feature of a two day Sydney Irish Festival that should have also boasted music from Damien Dempsey, Mary Black, Lunasa and Saint Sister. However just five days before the event, it was announced there would be no music stars and the festival was cut to one day.

The debacle fed into a legal case being brought against the GAA by cide brand Bulmers (Magners in Australia).

Many took to social media and other outlets to complain about the poor organisation of the event, late notice, queues at bars and lack of children's entertainment.

Although the Wild Geese Trophy was supposed to have a future, it is understood to have been loss-making prompting the GAA to look at the impact it had on other fixtures.

"The GAA President has also established a Fixture Review Committee to examine the Association's various competition structures,” Alan Milton told the Irish Echo.

“In that context it was deemed prudent not to proceed with the Wild Geese competition this year but the staging of competitions such as this will form part of that review process."

Cider brand sues GAA over Sydney Irish Festival

An ad for last November’s Sydney irish Festival which ran into problems over poor ticket sales.

An ad for last November’s Sydney irish Festival which ran into problems over poor ticket sales.

The widely-criticised Sydney Irish Festival, which took place in November, is now part of a legal claim against the GAA.

The manufacturer of Bulmers is suing the GAA in Ireland’s High Court, claiming it reneged on a deal to put the cider brand on tap in Croke Park, according to The Times.

In its action Bulmers, owned by C&C Group, is claiming it had an agreement for “pouring rights” in GAA headquarters. But the liquor company also wants to recover sponsorship money it claims it is owed relating to the Sydney Irish Festival, a GAA event in Australia last November, because the event did not go ahead in the way it had been presented to the cider company.

It is understood that C&C Group believed that sponsorship of the festival was linked to securing “pouring rights” in Croke Park.

The two-day festival in Sydney, which was sponsored by Magners, as Bulmers is known in Australia, was reduced to a one-day event due to lower than expected ticket sales. Held in the Sydney Showground, the festival included a hurling match on November 11 between league champions Kilkenny and Galway, the All-Ireland champions of 2017.

Plans for a “family fun day” on November 10, featuring hurling clinics, amusement rides, player autograph sessions, activities for kids and a Guinness World Records attempt to make the world’s biggest Irish stew, were all cancelled just five days before the event.

Galway revellers at the ill-fated Sydney Irish Festival.

Galway revellers at the ill-fated Sydney Irish Festival.

Well-known ballad singer Mary Black, urban folk performer Damien Dempsey, electro-folk outfit Saint Sister and enduringly popular trad band Lúnasa had been scheduled to perform on the first day of the weekend festival. The announcement of the change was met with disappointment and rancour, especially from those who had booked travel from other states and/or time off work. The late change left them out of pocket on air fares and accommodation.

Many patrons who attended the event were quick to criticise the organisation of the day with long queues for the bars. When some reached the top of a long queue, they were further frustrated to find out they could only get two drinks per person.

Paul Sergeant of Paul Sergeant Events, who was the local organiser of the festival, told The Irish Echo that the hurling had been a huge success but “we were deeply disappointed that we had to make the difficult decision to cancel the Saturday events and we apologise for the inconvenience it will have caused.

“There has been plenty of positive feedback about the day but it was spoilt for some by their experience at the bars. The venue operator has to adhere by RSA [responsible service of alcohol] requirements specific to every event, hence the drinks limit and bar closure times,” Paul Sergeant said.

“We have discussed the issue of lengthy queues with the venue operator and they apologise for being unable to meet the huge demand.”

Asked if another festival is planned for the coming years, Mr Sergeant replied: “The 2018 event was very much a test event. A thorough de-brief will be held … and that will determine what happens in the future.”

Michael Cusacks double winners at Pearses sevens

Winners: Michael Cusacks ladies football team. PIC: Darken Sportz

Winners: Michael Cusacks ladies football team. PIC: Darken Sportz

MICHAEL Cusacks of Sydney were the big winners of the Padraig Pearses sevens, completing a double victory of both the hurling and ladies football titles. New South Wales took cups in three of the four codes with Sydney’s Cormac McAnallens also coming out on top in the camogie competition while Garryowen made sure the football title remained in Victoria.

Pearses sevens is the biggest club GAA tournament in Australia with participants coming from as far away as Western Australia and this one proved to be the biggest yet. The full day of family fun also included a petting zoo, live entertainment and an exhibition match by Kids GAA Melbourne. Special guests were Conor Nash and Conor Glass, two Hawthorn Irish AFL stars, who presented trophies to the lucky kids.

Michael Cusacks came out on top against Melbourne Shamrocks in the hurling final. Cusacks captain Frankie Culleton, said: “Over the moon, we were. When we start off the season, we try to focus on sevens and that’s our first goal of the season. You need a lot of luck down there as well.

Michael Cusacks men's hurling team winners.  PIC: Darken Sportz

Michael Cusacks men's hurling team winners.  PIC: Darken Sportz

“We had the two buses coming back so we had a cup on each bus but we weren’t long meeting up with each other when we got back. We headed out onto the town. We celebrated well anyway. “We won it two years ago and that was the first time we won it in the history of the club with the hurling. That was big but it was very special to be able to captain the side to win it as well.” Cusacks’ lady footballers had to overcome Cormac McAnallens to take the club’s other crown of the day. Captain Grainne McGread said: “It was an unbelievable day, such a great atmosphere and I think it’s probaby the highlight of the pre-season competitions that all the teams in Australia go to. There’s such a good atmosphere and everyone goes there for the football and the craic as well.

“I think it’s been nearly 10 years since Cusacks have won it so it was really good especially for the older girls who have been there and then the new girls as well, winning it and being successful for their first season. It’s motivated us to continue our success this season and definitely push us forward and start the season as we mean to go on.

” Cormac McAnallens got revenge in another code when they beat Michael Cusacks in the camogie final. Their captain Maria Brody said: “It was fantastic to get it because we have never won the camogie there before. We’re absolutely over the moon. It’s fantastic to get the win.

“A lot of our team this year are new players that are just out this year and they had never experienced the sevens before. I’ve been in Australia five years and I’ve been playing with Cormac McAnallens five years so it was great for me to get the win after five years of losing or getting to finals and getting hammered by other teams like Michael Cusacks but finally it was our turn this year. It was such a pleasure to be captain as well after five years of playing. Cusacks are our big rivals so it was extra sweet to beat them.”