O’Neill adamant International Rules will survive despite whitewash
Says GAA never expressed any misgivings about a weaker, indigenous side
GAA president Liam O’Neill: “We know where we want to go with this. It’s very simple: if we want to kill this, if I wanted to kill this, being the president, we could all do it like that [clicks fingers].” Photograph: Inpho
GAA president Liam O’Neill yesterday placed the future of the International Rules series firmly in the AFL’s lap. Following Ireland’s 173-72 aggregate win, a meeting with their Australian counterparts is scheduled to take place before Christmas.
The series was completed by a 79-point victory last Saturday at Corke Park in front of just 28,526 spectators.
“They have a few things to work out,” said O’Neill. “We know where we want to go with this. It’s very simple: if we want to kill this, if I wanted to kill this, being the president, we could all do it like that [clicks fingers].
“We don’t want to do that. It’s only 30 years old. We’ve collectively criticised and demanded more of it. Even at its worst, if it was at its worst last weekend, the crowds are more than attended some recent international fixtures here. “No one said we should stop playing those sports,” was O’Neill’s rationale before he lauded the preparation of Paul Earley’s Irish squad who so easily saw off the indigenous touring squad. “I think the AFL know what they have to do now.”
It was put to O’Neill that Australian Rules players will never be able to attain a similar standard as their opponents while playing with an alien ball.
Adapting their game
“No, but they play a different game,” said O’Neill. “They’re bigger teams although this is one of the smallest teams they ever brought. They have that difficulty, yeah, they have but they’re adapting their game to it.”
O’Neill was also adamant the GAA never expressed any misgivings about a weaker, indigenous side being sent to Ireland.
“We did say to them that as a people who had a kind of a chequered history with being ruled by a stronger power that we understood how important it was for them. We just accepted the team they sent.”
So, nobody within the GAA expressed misgivings about it?
“I don’t know where that quote . . . Officially, no. Honestly I’ll say that and I was really very careful because Australia were sending a team, it was only the second indigenous team to go abroad to represent Australia and I think that was significant.
“It probably was unfortunate that because they’re only 10 percent of the playing population and that their best indigenous players couldn’t come, I think there were two or three significant ones that would have helped them. I certainly wouldn’t like to focus on it.”
O’Neill added: “We want them to bring the strongest team possible. Their biggest and strongest team is what everyone is asking for. I think we should be careful what we wish for. When they have their biggest and strongest team here we weren’t that happy either.”
So, what do you want then?
“I want football. I want this game to develop. I want continuity between the GAA and the AFL to see where we can go with this joint venture. I want the future players to have the opportunity that players have had for the last 30 years. I want an end to wrangling off the field.
“We got on really well with the AFL officials this time and I want that to continue. I want to work together to give both sets of players an international outlet. That’s what this idea was about. “We said we are going (to Australia) in 2014 and that’s not going to change and we are going to look beyond that to develop it.” O’Neill believes that interest in the series is not waning and he also defended the rules. “The AFL are in a better position after seeing this year to see what the possibilities are. I wouldn’t be too worried.”