International Rules

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."

Hybrid hope after 'best series ever'

Michael Murphy goes for goal during the second International rules test in Perth.  Picture: Sportsfile

Michael Murphy goes for goal during the second International rules test in Perth.  Picture: Sportsfile

JOE Kernan’s Irish team came a long way to taste bitter defeat, coming out on the wrong side of the latest International Rules series. Ireland lost the series 2-0 and by a margin of 116-103.

However, a late tackle by Joel Selwood and some cheap shots by the hosts would cause tempers to boil over and become the talking points of the series. However Tadhg Kennelly, who played AFL for Sydney Swans and represented Ireland in International Rules, said the series was the best yet.

“I think it was probably the best series ever played to tell you the truth,” Kennelly told the Irish Echo. “I’ve been involved in six series as a player, four series as a coach. As far as a competitive game and spectacle and the quality of the game itself and the way it was played by both teams, I think it was the best one.

“You need the best players from both codes to be playing. There were some missing from both but not a huge amount really. I think the concept has grown a lot of legs after that series.” Asked if the Dublin footballers were missed from the spectacle, Tadhg says: “Yes and no, it’s a bit difficult. People have got to understand they have been on the road for three years in a row really and right up until the end of September, it can take its toll on you.

“A lot of them played in the past also, it must be said. “It is not as if they haven’t played and represented their country. It just happened that the majority of them have been still involved in their club football.

“It’s very difficult being a county footballer when you’re being pulled and dragged, something has to give. It’s just a coincidence and the players have said that. (James) McCarthy said, we wanted to play, we have played in the past but it has all happened at once. “If you look at the Australian team though, they had no representation from the Richmond team that won the flag.” Michael Murphy and Conor McManus starred for Ireland and the Irish would have struggled to even keep in touch without their scores.

The Australian International Rules squad celebrate their success with the Cormac McAnallen Trophy in Perth.

The Australian International Rules squad celebrate their success with the Cormac McAnallen Trophy in Perth.

The first test at Adelaide saw Ireland starting well, leading 15-14 after the first 20 minutes. Their lead was stretched to 10 in the second quarter when Michael Murphy scored the first goal of the game. Michael Murphy and Conor McManus were Ireland’s best forwards, taking the lion’s share of the Irish scores. Pearce Hanley of the Gold Coast suffered a hand injury, ending his series and further depleting the Irish squad. Australia’s devastating pairing of Ben Brown and Nat Fyfe made sure they went in at the half-time hooter one point to the good, 28-27.

The heat took its toll on the Irish, who wilted in the second half, losing the third quarter 22-8 but they would do well to fight back, taking the final quarter 18-13, making it 63-53 in favour of the home team going into the second Test.

Ireland threatened to comeback in the second test in Perth with early Gary Brennan and Chris Barrett goals putting them in a commanding position, but Australia would produce a strong finish to claim the Cormac McAnallen trophy.

Ireland led 30-17 at the break when a black card for Joel Selwood saw tempers boil over and a melee erupted after the foul on Chris Barrett. Conor McManus kept Ireland in it with his fine shooting but Australia took an overall lead of seven points going into the final quarter and would finish stronger to take the match 53-50 and the series.

On the Selwood tackle that caused so much controversy, Kennelly said: “It’s just a different understanding. I think it’s certainly a free-kick, penalty and that’s in any of the two codes but players when they handpass in AFL, they brace themselves for the contact coming whereas in Gaelic football, we don’t do that as much.

“I can obviously see the uproar from Ireland but I just think there’s a grey area that’s always going to be there because of the interpretation of rules from countries that are so far away and concepts of the game are very different.

“That’s where we have be lenient on both sides of things, on both sets of rules and incidents,” Kennelly said

Kerryman comes home to roost with the Swans

Migratory Swan Returns: Tadhg Kennelly (right) with fellow Sydney Swans coaches (from Left) Steve Johnson and Dean Cox.

Migratory Swan Returns: Tadhg Kennelly (right) with fellow Sydney Swans coaches (from Left) Steve Johnson and Dean Cox.

TADHG Kennelly has returned as development coach for his beloved Sydney Swans, the team with which he won a Premiership in 2005.

“It’s great to be back. It’s five years I’ve been away from the club,” Kennelly told Irish Echo.

“It’s a bit familiar, yet foreign also. “I’ve had five years away from the club and different experiences in my own life. Coming back in as a coach and not a player is obviously a bit different but the very fabric of the football club hasn’t changed as far as how we approach the game and how strong of a cultural club it is.

“It’s different yet similar.” Kennelly is the only sportsman to have won both an AFL Premiership and All-Ireland football championship. He played his entire AFL career with Sydney Swans, only taking a break from his decade-long career to achieve his other ambition with Kerry.

The son of All-Ireland winner Tim Kennelly, a young Tadhg shone at Gaelic football as well as soccer having a brief stint at Blackburn Rovers’ youth team. In 1999, he joined Sydney Swans as a Rookie, making his senior debut in 2001. He was the first Irishman to win an AFL Premiership in 2005, playing all 26 games in a victorious campaign. He was also a losing finalist in 2006 when Swans lost by a single point.

Kennelly had expressed his desire to return home and win an All-Ireland with Kerry, something he achieved in 2009, playing in the Kingdom’s triumphant campaign, beating Cork in the final. 

Tadhg Kennelly

Tadhg Kennelly

Kennelly would then return to Swans for a further two years, playing his final game in September 2011, then working in development roles including as the AFL’s International Talent Co-ordinator which saw him bring talent from Ireland.

“It was great while I was doing it, giving opportunities to young men all over the world: Ireland, US, New Zealand. Now I’m all about the Sydney Swans and trying to help the young fellas step up and make it into senior football.

“I’ll keep an eye on it from a distance because that’s who I am. I’m an international footballer at the end of the day. I came from the other side of the world. Of course I’m always going to have a soft spot for that.

” Colin O’Riordan of Tipperary is one Irish player in the Sydney ranks that Tadhg will be working with and helping to reach that next step. “I know if I was a third-year footballer and I had someone at the club from very much the same background as myself as a coach, I would be leaning on them.

“The minute he came out here, I was all about him and helping him to settle in. Now obviously I’m able to work with him day to day and help his football from a technical point of view.

“We’ll be trying to get him up to speed as quick as we can to get him into senior selection,” he added.

Kennelly, who has just become a father for the third time, was one of the first AFL players to represent Ireland in International Rules, playing in six Tests.