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'This is probably the most important game in recent years of the Series': Duffy

WITH the Ireland squad departing for Australia today, this is usually the point at which some stakeholder or other in the International Rules competition warns of the potentially fatal consequences for the sort of damp-squib/ill-tempered contretemps/almighty-hiding that have sporadically blotched its recent and not-so-recent history.

Naturally, this year is no different.

Indeed, with the series restricted to just one test, on Sunday week, the window for a redemptive fixture has been smashed should things go awry in Perth.

In this context, GAA Director General, Páraic Duffy has conceded the experiment "needs a good game as never before", in order to retain public/participant interest, though he stopped shy of predicting its demise.


"If it turned out to be a very one-sided game or worse, is played in a bad spirit, I think it would be very damaging to its future," said Duffy at the launch of this year's Season of Sunday's, Sportfile's photographic yearbook of the GAA season.

"I don't want to say it's the last chance or make or break but it is probably the most important game in recent years of the series."

Yet already, interest in both hemispheres has been tested by two mostly lacklustre series, resulting in a 65-point aggregate win for Ireland in their last trip to Oz in 2011 and worse, a 101-point hiding on Irish soil last year when the tourists sent a team comprising solely of indigenous Australians.

In truth, the lack of major physical altercation, which almost defined the hybrid game at one stage, has equally resulted in a lukewarm reception and dwindling crowds in both countries.

Just 22,921 and 12,545 attended the tests in Melbourne and Gold Coast in 2011 while 17,567 went to Breffni Park for the opening night of last year's Series and 28,525 paid into Croke Park for the second.


Indeed, the reduction of this year's competition to a single game is being viewed by many in Ireland as the AFL's way of winding down the experiment.

"I don't think the one game in itself is the most significant thing," Duffy insisted.

"The most important thing is we get a competitive game. The last two series have been poor. This time it's only one game but I think it's really important that it's a good game, that it is competitive and that it's played in the right spirit so that people see it has a future.

"I think it is important in that respect. I think it's different this time," Duffy added.

"The new (AFL) chief executive Gillon McLachlan is genuinely committed to making this work.

"This will be the strongest team they have had in a long, long time. It will be a real challenge for the irish to win this game and that's good.

"This is the first time in a while they have really engaged.

"The last couple of times you couldn't say that because last year you had the indigenous team and the time before that wasn't as strong but this is the real deal.

"I'd be hopeful we'd get a good game but it does need it."


Of the issue of falling attendances, Duffy revealed: "My understanding is that we are looking at a sell out."

The Subiaco Oval, the venue for Sunday week, has a capacity of 43,500, meaning Duffy's sell-out prediction would ensure the largest attendance at an International Rules match since 61,842 saw the conclusion of the 2010 Series in Croke Park.

"Tickets are going well and they have a strong team.

"I don't think we have to worry about the crowd or the strength of the opposition - I think it will be a really competitive game.

"I think this can be a good game but you want to see a good spectacle. If it was a good spectacle then the Series will carry on.

"You just hope nothing goes wrong," Duffy concluded. "That's very important."