The Irish Warriors Aussie Rules football team were recently crowned the champions of Europe at the 2013 AFL Europe Championship at DCU Sportsgrounds.
In a thrilling climax to a closely contended final, the Warriors won with the last kick of the match by North Leinster Giants’ Mark Leavy to beat the British Bulldogs by a point and deny them their first international title.
There was plenty of local interest in the contest with South Dublin Swans players Bobby Byrne, Paul O’Halloran and Shane Liddy featuring prominently for the winners in the weeklong event that saw Ireland defeat Sweden, Denmark and Croatia on their route to the final.
Man of the match was Bulldogs’ captain Ian Mitchell who was tireless on the ball, yet unable to drag his team across the line. Sam Boyd, David Saunders and Ollie Dilieto were also strong contributors to a team that had glory taken from them at the very end.
In a hard and bruising match, Irish captain John O’Regan was subdued after a heavy collision with Britain’s Chris James in the second quarter. The Irish captain had been dominating the match up to that point and it looked like that moment might have swung the match in favour of the Bulldogs.
However, it inspired a greater effort from the Irish team and players such as Rathfarnham-based James Flavin, Ger Walls and former Oliver Plunketts Eoghan Ruadh GAA player Tom Browne started winning more of the ball.
The last quarter saw the lead change a number of times. When Swans player Bobby Byrne kicked a goal to give Ireland a one point lead with four minutes to go, it looked like the winner.
However, immediately from the next centre bounce, the Bulldogs swept the ball forward with their big man Chris James awarded a free kick after a desperate last gasp tackle by the Swans ruckman Paul O’Halloran.
James scored a goal from the free and it looked like it would be a fairy tale win for the visitors.
With only seconds on the clock the ball swept down to the Irish forward line where it bounced off the hands of the pack and into the arms of Irish defender Mark Leavy who snapped the goal and sent the crowd into a frenzy as the final siren sounded.
This win means Ireland currently hold all major AFL international trophies including the International Cup, the Euro Cup and now the European Championships. The Swans ruckman Paul O’Halloran was also named in the team of the tournament.