NEWS of the cancellation of the Compromise Rules series between Ireland’s Gaelic footballers and Australia’s Rules players later in the year was generally greeted with a sort of ‘so what?’
Although the first series started way back in the GAA Centenary Year of 1984, it has failed to capture widespread support both here and Down Under.
The Aussies made the announcement at the weekend and nobody was surprised by the decision to call a halt this year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The problems associated with long-haul travel, the uncertainty surrounding our return to what’s termed normal life and people’s well-being were some of the obvious factors in reaching the decision.
You also wonder if there was any real appetite for the series this year given sport is shut down for the foreseeable future and when it returns eventually, there will be too many domestic football issues to unravel before contemplating a set of Compromise Rules games.
It was last played for in 2017 in Australia and won by the locals to level it up at 10 victories apiece.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh was set to host one of the games in November, just as it did for the historic opener almost 36 years ago now. Croke Park was the other appointed venue for the two-match series.
Ireland were due to make the trip in 2022, but that’s a long way off and it’s unclear if the series will even return.
Those of a certain vintage will recall the first game on a bleak winter’s afternoon in late October on Leeside.
The archives report a crowd of 8,000 showed up to witness this novel encounter and their memories are sure to centre around the brutality of some of the visiting players.
There’s video footage of one of their giants, a chap called Mark Lee, almost decapitating an opponent, who had to be stretchered off the pitch.
Cork referee Frank Murphy is seen admonishing the Aussie, who is towering over him, as concerned colleagues attended the stricken Irish player.
Some of the ‘greats’ of Gaelic football represented Ireland that afternoon, players like Colm O’Rourke, Jack O’Shea, ‘Bomber’ Liston, Barney Rock, Matt Connor, Mick Lyons, Jimmy Kerrigan and Shea Fahy.
The Aussies won by 13 points even though Ireland scored four goals to the visitors’ two, it was the Aussies ability to kick overs and points which made the difference.
Ireland levelled it at 1-1 by winning the second game by four points a week later at Croker, watched by 12,500 supporters, though the visitors claimed the third game by five points even though the home side out-goaled them 5-1. There was a crowd of over 32,000 at the game.
And while the attitude to the series here is probably lukewarm at best, there are some noteworthy asides, too, like commemorating fallen stars.
For example, the Jim Stynes medal is awarded to the best Australian player.
The former Dublin All-Ireland minor winner joined Melbourne, with whom he won the 1991 Brownlow Medal, setting the record for most consecutive Victoria FL or AFL games played with 244.
Stynes was included in Melbourne’s Team of the Century and elected to the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
When he died in 2012, Stynes was honoured with a state funeral in Melbourne.
The current cup is named after former Tyrone captain Cormac McNallen, who passed away in 2004, having played in the previous three series.
Cork 2010 All-Ireland winning captain, Graham Canty, and Ciaran Sheehan won medals for the best Irish players in 08 and 2013 respectively.
And the Harry Beitzel medal for the fairest player went to Jimmy Kerrigan in ’84.