Once-thrilling International Rules series is on its last legs, admits Rock

Dublin star got memento of broken nose in inaugural 1984 tournament

Barney Rock, in action above against Australia’s Robert DiPierdomenico, says he can’t see the tournament surviving on the basis of one match in a series.

Barney Rock, in action above against Australia’s Robert DiPierdomenico, says he can’t see the tournament surviving on the basis of one match in a series.

 

Thirty years ago today, the first International Rules series ended in front of an impressive crowd of 32,318 at Croke Park. Next week Ireland travel to Australia to defend the Cormac McAnallen trophy in what has been reduced to a one-test series.

The mood surrounding the project is now fairly downbeat compared to the optimism of 1984 when Australia won the third test to clinch the series. After some Gothic violence in the early stages of the Australian team’s tour, the game had settled down and the third test was the best of the series before the visitors triumphed 76-71.

The concept was new and the idea of players from different counties coming together – under the management of the late Peter McDermott, of Meath who had been a pioneer of the Australian connection, and Galway’s Liam Sammon – to play for Ireland was unique.

For Dublin’s Barney Rock the most immediate memento of the day was a broken nose, sustained in a collision as opposition goalkeeper, a role unknown in Australian Rules, Gary McIntosh charged at him in the act of scoring.

Liam Tierney from Longford – I always remind him of this – flicked the ball into me over the full back’s head,” recalls Rock. “I saw the ‘keeper coming – I was about 18 yards out – and, as he came, I shoved the ball in underneath him. I watched it into the net but took my eye off Mr McIntosh, who kept coming and I got broken at that stage.”

He has warm memories of that final test and the series as a whole. Reporters felt that the amateur Irish players had run out of steam a bit but Rock believes that the Australians adapted well.

“They were much better when the ball was moving, taking you out, blocking, third-man tackle. That was their game and once they got used to the round ball they were very quick.

“That particular day was a good match. They beat us in Cork and we beat them in Croke Park in the second test so the atmosphere was there the third day. The blood was up – probably as much amongst the spectators as the players – and it was all do or die in the last game. There was only four or five points in it at the end.

“I did enjoy it. It was great to be there for the first series. I scored a goal in each of the matches. It would have been nice to win it but it remains a great memory.

“We had a great trip down to Cork for the first match and for the weeks they were here we had a very enjoyable time even if we were belted around the place.”

He believes that while the international series was good while it lasted, the future looks bleak.

“We got a good bit out of the connection with our rule changes to improve our game – and maybe disimprove some of the skills – but it’s probably on its last legs. I can’t see it surviving on the basis of one match in a series.”

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