The AFL and the GAA today confirmed that Australia will play Ireland in a one-Test 2014 International Rules Series to be played at Patersons Stadium in Perth on Saturday 22 November.
A sell out crowd in November and a game that engages the attendance would certainly give us something to build on for the future
Liam Ó Néill
Following one-sided victories for Ireland in the two most recent Test Series’, it was also confirmed that Australia will be represented by only the most talented AFL players and officials, with the line-up limited to individuals who have been honoured with selection in the All-Australian squad during their careers.
The AFL and GAA can also confirm that discussions are well-advanced around some modifications to the IRS rules to allow for a broader range of AFL player types to be able to compete successfully.
Welcoming the announcement, Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael, Liam Ó Néill said he was pleased that Ireland’s best Gaelic footballers would have the opportunity in 2014 to pit their wits against the cream of the AFL:
“After the conclusion of the 2013 Series, we expressed our genuine fears for the future of International Rules if the best players from both countries were unable to commit to their national sides. Both Associations agreed that the one sided nature of the last two Series’ has had a major effect on attendances and general public interest; it is obvious to us all that if this trend is not reversed in 2014, it will be difficult to argue that there is any sustainable future for the game at this point in time.”
However he said that a date in late November would assist enormously with player availability and that with the best players from each country going head to head, he was confident that the sporting public would react positively to what was being proposed for 2014.
“A sell out crowd in November and a game that engages the attendance would certainly give us something to build on for the future” he said before restating his belief that the international game provided a vital outlet and recognition for the best footballers in both codes.
The Uachtarán said that from an Irish perspective he was particularly pleased with a date later in the calendar as he said it would mean that the Tour would have significantly less impact on the Club Championships in Ireland. He also referred to the Irish Diaspora in Australia and said people should not underestimate what it means to the Irish abroad to get the opportunity to support their national team on occasions such as there.
He concluded by saying that Ireland would be seeking to play a meaningful warm-up game in Melbourne ahead of the Test game and that Paul Earley will again be in charge of the Irish Team, with his backroom team including Tony Scullion (Derry), Séamus Mc Carthy (Tipperary), Jarlath Fallon (Galway) and Nicholas Walsh (Cavan/GWS Giants).
The Australian team will be coached by current All-Australian and Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson. The team will also be represented by Eddie McGuire who has been appointed Chef de Mission for the Test.
AFL General Manager, Football Operations, Mark Evans said the AFL remained committed to the IRS concept and was keen to revitalise interest in the Series by ensuring it involved the best AFL players available, competing under rules that suited all players.
“Australian and Irish fans want to see a spectacular and competitive contest played between the most talented AFL players and Ireland’s best Gaelic footballers,” Mr Evans said.
“We are determined to restore the prestige and popularity of the International Rules Series between Australia and Ireland.
“The AFL and GAA continue to believe the IRS is an important opportunity for players from both codes to be recognised for their elite talent by receiving the honour of representing their country.”
He said the AFL acknowledged previous difficulties in fielding the best Australian side due to the timing of the Series and the unavailability of many of the competition’s most talented and exciting players.
“Ireland’s players have proved extremely keen and competitive in recent times and so we simply cannot afford to put forward anyone less than the AFL’s best players.
“By limiting selection to All-Australian players, by scheduling the Test later in the year at the end of most players’ leave, and by amending the rules we believe we will field a strong and competitive Australian side that will re-establish the event’s standing in the eyes of fans,” Mr Evans said.
“The calibre of AFL players and officials involved is clearly a vital component and the early personal commitment and enthusiasm of so many of the competition’s big names augurs well for the future of the Series.
“The immediate future of the International Rules Series between Australia and Ireland may well depend on the success of the 2014 Test in late November so we have a very clear intention of being highly competitive and securing a good win.”
Mr Evans said the AFL was confident of attracting a big crowd to Patersons Stadium as well as a strong television audience to see the competition’s best known players line up together to win back the Cormac McAnallen Trophy after Ireland’s domination of the past two Series.