Future of International Rules in doubt?

Ireland’s attempt to win back some dignity in the international rules series ended in a rout by Australia: 69-31. It was all a far cry from the perhaps too civilised first leg. One Irish player, Graham Geraghty, ended up unconscious for half an hour and was eventually taken to hospital. Three others were ‘taken out’ by another ‘physical performance’ by Australia. Even the Australian coach Kevin Sheedy seemed to recognise this time that a seam has opened up in the compromise code that could end the only opportunity both countries have to playing competitive matches against another nation.Nicky Brennan refuses to be drawn on the future of the game. But two questions will surely be asked:

– Is the code just loose enough to allow the two sides to play their own separate games? Interesting that Ireland coach Sean Boylan targeted the Australian umpire Shane McInerney for bias. But it may be that the extraordinary levels of disorder on the pitch are par for the course in Australia. For instance, there was a full scale brawl going on as Australia scored their first goal after three minutes. Either the rules need tightening, or the refs need to be given a clear idea of what is acceptable on pitch behaviour, and what is not.

– We may also be witnessing the mismatch of amateur and professional codes. The Aussies may be rougher on the pitch, but their full time time players are fitter and faster and play to the end of every game. In picking a professionalised code to partner with the GAA may now be hitting the pain barrier that northern hemisphere Rugby Union had to face about ten or fifteen years ago. If Ireland is to regain its competitiveness in any future matches, maybe it has to look at how it can produce players of comparative fitness. Questioning its amateur status has to be part of that, surely?

Perhaps one of the reasons why things have got more ugly in the last few tests is that these games are taking on greater importance to the players and their supporters, as the record attendance yesterday indicates. Ireland (by far the more injured of the two parties) should think very carefully before backing out of any future arrangements.

These series gives the Association in Australia an incredible boost every year. The Aussies who now choose to play it (albeit as a second or third sport) often do so not because of heritage but because they aspire to the high skill sets of the Ireland teams they see play each year in the International Tests.

But they are also a powerful incentive for GAA players to benchmark themselves against another country. It is to be hoped that both countries make the necessary moves to keep these annual games in business. If not, then both countries will be the poorer for its loss.

As for Australia, well… It’s just no way to win matches, or converts, to its own, home grown, code.

  • againstthehead

    hmm, is gaelic not a contact sport? sounds like a bit of sour grapes to me? at the end of the day it’s up to the refs to keep a lid on it. Ozzies are winners, simple as that, whatever it takes to win. personally i love a bit of contact – too many sports are going soft – even rugby – can;t do anything without a yeallow card these days!!
    keep up the good work

  • kevin

    The whole thing was a farce yesterday? Why should counties provide their best players to be massacred by Australians bent on avoiding humiliation by a ‘bunch of amateurs?’ The code should be laid to rest, its disadvantages far outway any benefits to the association abroad

  • smcgiff

    ‘can;t do anything without a yeallow card these days!!’

    There were tackles from yesterday’s game that would have had a player sent off in rugby.

    It’s clear the refs lost control of the game.

    It’s equally clear that the Aussie tactics won the day. The Irish boys were completely physced out of it, and there was only one team in it after the opening brawl.

    From the off there were players fighting on the pitch, and while one Irish player was getting his face re-arranged the game continued and the Ozzies scored a goal (six points).

    A game that allows a player to get a yellow card (allegedly a red card exists, but unless a knife or gun is pulled this isn’t used) and go off for 15mins, but replaced during that 15 mins is a joke.

    You can see how it can be abused. Field your thugs first, they take out the opposition, and get replaced by proper footballers!

    Stop this farce now! Let the Aussies keep the cup – The best all round rugby/ice hockey/martial arts team deserves to keep it.

  • Donnie

    This bastardised “sport” does no favours to either gaels or Aussies. It’s time for all parties to call it a day although it is obviously a money-spinner and the Central Council lackeys get a free holiday Down Under!

  • Glensman

    Yesterday’s game was sickening to watch and the cynical assaults that formed the basis of the Australian tactics were disgraceful.

    Your first point is spot on IMO Mick. If what went on yesterday was within the rules of the game then it has no future, if it wasn’t then the system of referreeing needs to be completely overhauled. Muddling through as we have unil now isn’t good enough.

    I take issue with the amateur/pro point though: the fitness and ‘professionalism’ of the Irish players has increased immensely over the last decade. They have shown in the past that they can last the pace of these games, while their greater mobility and familiarity with the round ball has enabled them to beat their professional opponents. Unfortunately this seems to have fuelled the premeditated thuggery from an Aussie team with wounded pride in recent years. They know that they can out-fight us, and they haven’t got the courage to see if they can out-play us.

    Yesterday’s debacle should be the last time we send our players into such an environment, and every effort should be made to embarrass them into handing back the Cormac McAnallon trophy.

  • Pig Champion

    Donnie – spot on.

    If leading football managers like Micky Harte and Joe Kernan (GAA men to their fingertips) can’t see the value of this hybrid game, then the only other reason Central Council are sticking with it is the revenue being earned.

    Given that perfectly good GAA competitions like the hurling inter-provincials are being left to wither on the vine shows where the bean-counters at Croke Park place their priorities.

  • Yokel

    You can’t lose a game by that margin due to the opposition’s thuggery alone…

  • Glensman

    Yesterday was different from previous rough-and-tumble encounters (as was last year) in that the thuggery was employed as a key tactic rather than in spontaneous, isolated incidents.

    The Aussies set out to intimidate Ireland out of the game from the outset by calculated assaults on key players. Once they had achieved this, outplaying a dispirited home side was a foregone conclusion.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Nobody is denying that the Aussies could well have won anyway. It’s got nothing to do with who won. After watching the first test on the telly (and regardless of who won), I was considering going to the second test. But I’m glad I didn’t now. When it comes back to Ireland, I’m not going unless next year’s series in Australia is more civilised. If Ireland won with such violence I wouldn’t be impressed either.

  • Yokel

    Whilst the Aussies roughed them up rightly, the key thing was that the Irish lads folded badly under it which is not a matter of professionalism or amateurism, it was a matter of will.

  • Globetrotter

    I was on the Hill yesterday, the general consensus among the patrons was that this wasn’t a sport at all. Blatant thuggery won the day, after the first quarter the Irish lads didn’t want to know.
    The Aussie fans in the crowd were particularly obnoxious about proceedings I might add.

  • fer fecks sake

    Personally I don’t find the rules that particularly entertaining anyway so I wouldn’t miss them one bit.

  • Yokel

    Aaron, no one suggests that the Australians were anything but a bunch of hatchet men and was well clear that there were certain Irish players who were marked men before the game even started.

    The loss of will under the onslaught was pretty noticeable, however, and from that point of view disappointing.

  • darth rumsfeld

    what i really want to know is- what happened to the wee dog which was on the pitch at Galway,and was clearly the star of this turgid sports mismatch?
    Oh, and of course -“Advance Australia Fair (or Foul)!”

  • againstthehead

    ah the ozzies have a term they use for the english – winging pommes??? i’m sure a few of their newspapers are using the term for us lot – get over it – ozzie rules is a physical game – if you want to mix the 2, then you gotta take the rough stuff.

  • smcgiff

    The point being missed here is that by the rules of the game the aussies should have had several players sent off.

    That the refs failed to apply the rules is the real crime here.

    Sure, if only Beckham wasn’t sent off againt the Argies England would have gone onto win the FIFA world cup!

  • mcgrath

    The rules of the regular Australian game would have led to distance penalties and post game suspensions from the likes of yesterdays match. As there were not going to be any tangible consequences for rough tackles and such, the Australian side took advantage of that.

    The Irish team looked like a bunch of pussies during the game and look like a bunch of whining winnies after the game. I blame the Irish management. After the first hard tackle, when it was obvious that the referees were going to let everything go, the Irish team should have been told to step it up. Substitutions should have been made for those players unable to or unwilling to do so. There was national pride on the line. The Australians are laughing at us now.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Substitutions should have been made for those players unable to or unwilling to do so. There was national pride on the line. The Australians are laughing at us now.’

    I don’t see sport as a substitute for war, and if a game isn’t a game it should be done away with.

    The Irish manager asked his players if they wanted to continue with the match after the disgraceful first quarter, but the players decided to go back out and play on.

    I’m flabbergasted that if the actions that occurred on the field transpired off the pitch they could have lead to prison sentences for assault, and went relatively unpunished.

  • mcgrath

    18 – smcgiff

    Nothing to do with war, its called competition. Some players / teams are more competitive than others, some games are rougher than others.

    When players walk onto a football pitch, knowing there is no consequence to being sent off, its going to get pretty friggin rough. The Irish team didn’t take advantage of that, and worse still, they didn’t respond when the Australian team did.

  • againstthehead

    i like it mcgrath – all about psychology I’m afraid, top level sport is played on the edge – all th etop teams push the rules to the limits to get the extra edge. it’s a learning curve – get over it.

  • micktvd

    I totally agree that the Australian footballers engaged in tactics that wouldn’t be tolerated here in Australia. They would be suspended and fined by their clubs. Here, now, aussie rules is a skillful, fast flowing and professional game. The thuggery has almost been eradicated here- thus my son plays it. If the standards decline to what they were twenty\thirty years ago, he won’t. All this macho crap about Aussie winners is an unmistakeable sign of cultural immaturity and decline. Aussie rules is a fantastic game with local roots. Aussie rules is not what we saw the other night. I’m embarassed by the whole spectacle, including pissed morons on the sideline who think that winning is all that counts.

    By the way, Brendan Fevola has claimed that part of the reason for the altercation in the pub was the racial abuse aimed at the Aboriginal players. If true, and I hope that he’s lying, it’s another embarassment. As an Irish australian- not a happy week. And ‘Yeats’ tanked it in the Melbourne Cup!

  • micktvd

    Oh I forgot to say, “hard at the ball” is the best compliment in Aussie rules. Head hunters are not liked or tolerated in Australia.

  • mcgrath

    One thing to remember is that the Irish guys are amateurs. They have their regular day-jobs to go back to the day after the match. If they get injured in a brawl at a football match and have to take time off for it, it could affect their income. Unlike the Aussies, who are professionals and getting injured is a risk that the job entails.

    In addition to the points that Mick makes in the main post, there are a few other issues to consider.

    First of all, because there are only two countries involved in the tournament, it is well-nigh impossible to get a scrupulously unbiased referee for the matches. Even if a ref from one country or the other does a good job on match day, any decision they make in favour of their home country’s team will be viewed with suspicion by the other.

    Secondly, there is no effective sanction for thuggery. You can’t introduce fines, because only one side is made up entirely of professionals. A possible option would be for the relevant association to ban an offending player from games in their native code once the series is finished, but realistically, that’s unlikely to happen.

    I think that this phase of the experiment is reaching the end of its natural life now. It should be shelved, and maybe looked at again if/when the GAA goes professional.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    It’s a bit late to cry wolf now isn’t it?
    After all the GAA advertised for two months on RTE and other media with the tagline: The Aussies are coming and it’s time to play…hard.
    This was a lucrative advertising campaign for the media which benefitted from the campaign and they kept shtum about the, shall we say, ambiguous message sent by the ad campaign, especially taken in light of last year’s disturbing scenes from Melbourne.

    The media in the South were looking for this type of trouble also. After the match in Galway, the previous week, the tone was one of disappointment that the match wasn’t rough enough. So the ante was upped for Sunday’s game.

    Now they’re screaming ‘thuggery’ and ‘barbarity’! Such humbug. They took the money, they upped the ante.

    The media – especially RTE as a public service broadcaster – should admit its role in this debacle and donate the money generated by them through ad revenue to the Cormac McAnallen Fund as it is his name which graces the cup which was disgraced by Sunday’s scenes.

    The GAA also has a case to answer. It was naive to expect the Aussies not to play hard, even if the ad was taken out of the equation. WIth the ad in the mix, however, the public and the players expected nothing less. The people who commissioned this ad should resign.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    Thuggery has no place in any sport, but I think it is a bit two faced of the GAA to react like this when nearly every club game in the country this weekend was pepper with fights. The Examiner and the Times both printed pictures of near riots in a club game yesterday, while one of the country’s most promising young hurlers Joe Canning got an awful shit-kicking in a club game a few weekends ago. MAybe we should do more to stamp out thuggery in their own codes before having a holier than thou attitude when it comes to the Australians.

  • dublin exile

    Theres a lot of hypocracy going on about the physical end of the game. Since I first bunked off school to go to the then ‘compromise rules’ part of the attraction of the game was that there were bound to be a few smacks dished out by both sides.
    Sean Boylan crying about physical play! Jaysus, Colm O Rourke will be at it next. Meath were just about the most physical side in the country under Boylan, and ruined manys a day out for me and my fellow countymen.
    The rules of the game weren’t enforced on Sunday, thats the main problem. But dont for a second think that nasty tackles, elbows, stamping, and outright punching doesn’t go unpunished every time two teams step out on a pitch.
    The managers of Armagh and Tyrone may well have reasons to oppose the international rules but dont try and tell the rest of us that physical play is one of them.

  • Mayoman

    The key point to this series is the creation of an even playing field by compromising the rules of each code (is thuggery part of AFL rules?). Take the first test, played without thuggery (for the most part), the Irish won. You can take sides on the issue, but played on skill, its a competition between players of each code. When you allow thuggery, the Aussies will always win. You wouldn’t have a professionally sanctioned boxing match between Amir Khan and Vladimir Kitschko, or even between Ricky Hatton and Vladimir Klitschko. A game ran on the principle that the ‘biggest thugs win’ is always going to be a massively once-sided affair for the professional/amateur divide pointed out above. If the Aussies want to continue (and maybe they are sick of it and knew what they were doing!) then the rules have to be changed and enforced to create that even playing field. Otherwise, the farce will continue and that 82,000 spectacel will die very soon.

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    Australian Rules is a physical sport, but is not necessarily violent, nor is violence endemic in the AFL. There is a strict disciplinary code of conduct in the AFL which would’ve led to large fines and long bans for the behaviour of some Australian players in Sunday’s game. Perhaps the threat of bans from domestic competition would’ve curtailed some of the more ‘colourful’ behaviour. However, the Australian ‘win at all costs’ mentality permeates through all sport, and after being beaten in the first game, they ‘stooped to conquer’ in the second – remember, this is a country that bowls underarm to win cricket matches.

    I wouldn’t worry though mcgrath, Australians are not laughing at you. Most don’t care. Compared to beating New Zealand at rugby, the Americans in the swimming pool or the English at just about anything, victory over the Irish in a made-up sport is not that important. Outside of Victoria, its little more than a cultural curiosity. As for the importance of these Compromise matches (as raised in the main text) I think its overstated. Sure, 80,000 people at Croke Park brings some additional funds into the coffers, but the Irish TV audience is hardly the golden goose for the AFL (and vice-versa for the GAA) and there must be better ways of expanding globally than an annual circus of thuggery. I can’t imagine that Sunday’s antics will encourage many people to take up either sport, nor will the most important and influential group of all, the sporting mums, be rushing to register their little angels to the local GAA or AFL club after the latest dust-up aka compromise match.

    I think ultimately the Irish should be proud of their team. Yes, beaten on aggregate, but in terms of matches, a 1-1 draw between (and apologies to the Glensman) an Amateur team and a Professional Australian outfit who are bigger and stronger. Also, Ireland’s overall record (6 series wins to 7 I think) is very impressive.

  • MAD DOG Dinsdale

    What is everyone sooking about? If you don’t like what the International Rules Series has become don’t watch it! If there is no public interest it will either be changed to appease the public or cancelled completely. However, while 80,000+ are willing to pay to see the event (and television networks return solid ratings figures) it WILL continue. Remember, this series is not about entertaining the public it is about marketing and the “Allmighty $$$$”.

    So I say to the Irish and Australian whingers put down your glasses of Guiness and Fosters and lets all have a glass of ” HARDEN THE FUCK UP!!!”

  • Aussies Rule

    You Irish are such a bunch of whingeing poms. If you don’t want to get hurt, play a sport like chess or table tennis. In Oz we have real men, real men play real sports and that involves a bit of physical contact.