The long-awaited inaugural International Rules match took place on Wednesday June 5 with the two Birmingham teams, Gaelic football and Aussie Rules, stepping onto the Bournbrook pitch to showcase their skills in the ultimate battle.
Around 400 spectators lined the pitch-side as they supported their team in this fast-paced, hybrid game, with the International match offering a thrilling combination of the famous Aussie Rules tackles alongside the round ball, square pitch and scoring set up of Gaelic football for the crowd to enjoy.
‘It is so great to have so many people come to the event and be able to showcase our sport, with the crowd proving so important’ commented Aussie Rules club captain, Ben Massey.
With the first ever International Rules match played between the two clubs last year, the Gaelic football team were determined to retain their title as they demonstrated skilful play to pull ahead 20-13 by the end of the first quarter.
‘It was a very fiercely contested match, but the Gaelic boys started off moving the ball much more efficiently, taking it right to the end of the field to get the 6 pointers’, observed Ian McNicholas, referee for the game.
As the crowd enjoyed an Aussie-style BBQ and pitch-side bar, the two teams stepped back onto the pitch to play a passionate and intense second quarter. The Aussie Rules team adapted their style of play to score several impressive overs to close the gap and leave just 3 points between the two teams. However, the Gaelic side coped well under the pressure to retain their lead, ending the second quarter 33-25.
Half-time entertainment helped calm the nerves of the tense crowd, alongside some great dance moves from the UBSport mascot, before the supporters clapped their side back onto the pitch as they headed into the vital third quarter. With both teams bringing their own skill and passion to the field, the penultimate quarter proved an inspiring showcase of talent, with the Gaelic side clutching onto their title; 43-31.
The final quarter saw the Aussie Rules team show off their endurance and determination as they continued to establish vital points, resulting in a remarkable turnaround. The crowd was electric, strengthening the allegiance for their team and pushing the boys to dig deeper, with the Aussie side eventually levelling out the score at 45-45.
The atmosphere increased as the clock ticked on, with the teams still drawing with one minute of this spectacular event left to play. However, the Aussie Rules team pulled ahead in the last 30 seconds of the game, to win 56-55, and be crowned champions of this International Rules match.
Aussie Rules captain, Ed Clampitt, who already looks forward to working on retaining the title again next year, stated, ‘We are a stronger team this year which made a big difference, and to win the technical inaugural game is special.'
The event proved a huge success, with a particular mention going to Ben Massey, men’s Gaelic Football club captain Jack Hennessey and women’s Gaelic Football secretary Beccy Manning for all their hard work surrounding the preparation for this event.
Jack Hennessey spoke following the match saying, ‘Support for both teams was unreal and credit must be given to everyone that came out. Hopefully they will tell all their friends what a spectacle it was, giving the event an even bigger crowd next year.’
He added, ‘We are really happy with UBSport and the way this event has been run, and are really proud of everyone’s involvement.’