Wednesday 17 January 2018

Australian revenge mission key to survival of series

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THE GAA and AFL have signed up for two more International Rules series in 2013 and 2014 but, as has been the case throughout its history, its long-term future remains under scrutiny.

Violence is not the enemy this time, for while last Friday's second Test in Gold Coast simmered towards boiling point in the third quarter when five players were sin-binned, it had little of the venom which marred the 2005 and 2006 series.

Fears of a dismissal, which would result in Australian players being suspended in the AFL, helped to cool temperatures, as Ireland completed the biggest aggregate win in Rules history.

Unquestionably, Ireland played extremely well in both games, but they were up against probably the worst team Australia ever sent into action.

And while the AFL chose to blame a variety of factors, such as the racing carnival in Melbourne, for the collapse in attendances, it's far more likely that the Australian public reacted to the lack of real quality in the team.

The combined attendance at the two Tests was just over 35,000, an alarming drop of 43,000 on 2008. The decision to stage the first Test in Melbourne -- as opposed to finishing off there -- backfired and, with Ireland carrying a 44-point lead into the second game, it was always going to be difficult to generate interest in Gold Coast.

The AFL have told the GAA that they will ensure a much better team comes to Ireland in two years' time, and they are also confident they can rekindle Australian interest in three years' time.

However, the danger now is that the Irish public, having noted the Australian apathy, won't respond with the same enthusiasm as before in 2013. If that were to happen, it's difficult to see how the series would survive.

Still, that's two years away and the GAA will, no doubt, market the games much more aggressively than the Australians, who learned a painful lesson from this year.

They discovered some realities on the pitch too, including that unless they deploy most of their best players, they will be badly exposed. The days are gone when the Australians can use their fitness and physique to out-muscle the Irish. Indeed the reverse was the case as conceded by Australian coach Rodney Eade, who acknowledged that Ireland were stronger and quicker as they went on to record 65-point aggregate victory

It was quite embarrassing for the hosts and if that doesn't prod the Australians into launching a revenge mission in Ireland in two years' time, nothing will.

Irish Independent

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